China’s Higher Education Bubble

With millions of college students graduating into China’s “hardest job-hunting season,” Fordham Law School’s Carl Minzner argues at Caixin that the Chinese government needs to re-evaluate its educational development priorities to reverse the current trend of degree devaluation and surging youth unemployment:

[… R]apid expansion has had disastrous effects. Degree devaluation is one result. When relatively rare in the 1990s, college degrees sufficed to get good jobs. Now a common commodity, they no longer do.

[…] Serious reform requires deep change. Blindly supporting the production of more and more advanced degrees in China for their own sake just doesn’t make sense.

For China, this means re-evaluating state development priorities in place since the late 1990s. These have prioritized university education at the expense of all else. But ironically, unemployment rates for 21-25 year olds in the country are four times lower for elementary school graduates than for university students – precisely because huge demand exists for skilled technical positions that many university graduates are unable (or unwilling) to fill. Rebalancing state priorities to emphasize a diversity of higher education models – postgraduate, university, college and vocational – might help better address looming problems of youth unemployment. Nor are such policies new. They resemble those China pursued in the 1950s or 1980s and in use in Germany today, but abandoned in the frantic rush of the past 15 years to throw up universities with ever more impressive academic credentials. [Source]

Also see prior CDT coverage of China’s booming production of college students and jobless college graduates.


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