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Ethnic minority-serving higher education institutions in the United States and China: a comparative case study of two institutions


Tribal Colleges and Universities in the United States and Ethnic Minority-Serving Institutions in China play a significant role in changing the underrepresented status of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AIANs) and Chinese Ethnic Minorities (CEMs) in their respective higher education systems. This comparative study of two ethnic minority-serving institutions—Diné College in the US and Yanbian University in China—examines strategies and practices each institution uses to address challenges in serving Navajo and Korean Chinese students and communities. Through conducting semi-structured interviews with senior administrators from two institutions and AIAN and CEM content area experts, this study confirms that Diné College and Yanbian University play important roles in providing higher education opportunities and preserving indigenous and ethnic cultures and languages. From a comparative perspective, the efforts of Diné College and Yanbian University in addressing challenges differ because of their respective political and higher education contexts.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    The first author’s background of growing up in Southwestern China where the most CEM groups reside and his studying experiences on AIAN HE in the US provided the motivations and expertise of comparing ethnic minority-serving HEIs in two countries. The second author has over two decades of conducting research in collaboration with CEM and AIAN peoples.

  2. 2.

    “Project 211” was initiated by China’s Ministry of Education in 1995 to promote 100 national key universities in China. Through significant government appropriations, “Project 211” enhanced the research standards of high-level universities in China. In 2017, it was replaced by the new “Double First-Class University Plan,” which, however, has not been officially launched.

  3. 3.

    The “Double First-Class University Plan” is a national effort to develop a group of top Chinese universities and disciplines to achieve the world-class status by the end of 2050. The list of institutions in this plan was announced by China’s Ministry of Education in 2017.


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This study is supported by the Research in Diversity Program funded by the University of Pittsburgh Research Council.

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Correspondence to Weiyan Xiong.

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Xiong, W., Jacob, W.J. Ethnic minority-serving higher education institutions in the United States and China: a comparative case study of two institutions. Asia Pacific Educ. Rev. (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12564-020-09625-1

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  • American Indian and Alaska Native
  • Chinese ethnic minority
  • Minority-serving institutions
  • Indigenous higher education
  • Navajo people
  • Korean Chinese