Contribution of Development of China's Higher Education to Human Rights Undertaking

By Xue Jinwen
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, October 29, 2009
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3. The right to education of population with different incomes shall be equally secured

Education is the cornerstone for the revitalization of the people, and the educational fairness represents an important base for the social fairness. The first sentence of Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that the higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit. However, due to the unbalanced economic development in China, there exist income difference between the groups in the rural areas and in the urban areas, the groups between different regions, and the groups in the same region. Such income difference constitutes an obstacle to the equal access of citizens to the higher education to some extent.

The Chinese Government pays much importance to the influence of the income gap on the equal access to the right to education, and has taken a series of active steps to solve this problem.

In the field of the free education, in 2006, the Chinese Government exempted the tuitions and surcharges on 52 million students in the rural free education stage in the western regions and part of the central regions, provided textbooks free of charge for 37.30 million students from impoverished families, and offered subsidies for living use to 7.80 million boarders. In 2007, China exempted all the tuitions and surcharges on the rural free education. In 2007, the Chinese Government earmarked a total rural free education budget of CNY 223.5 million, a rise of CNY 39.5 billion year on year. The Central Government has injected a total of CNY 9 billion into the construction projects of the rural boarding schools, and totally 7,651 schools have benefited. A total of CNY 8 billion has been invested in the remote education project for rural elementary and middle schools, and the project has covered more than 80% of the rural elementary and middle schools in the central and western regions, and enabled more than 100 million students to share the quality educational resources.

In the field of the higher education, the State has established the aid policy system to ensure the students from financially tight families can afford to go to college or receive the vocational education. The pillars of the aid policy system are the national scholarships and aids, supplemented by part-time jobs, special aids for difficulty and exemption and reduction of tuitions.

Scholarships and aids will be discussed first. In 2007, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Finance jointly promulgated the Opinions on Perfecting the Aids to Common University Students from Financially Difficult Families. The National Scholarship has been set up in line with this document, and is used to award the extremely excellent full-time undergraduates at common colleges and universities as well as higher vocational schools. Each year, 50,000 students are awarded with the standard of CNY 8,000 per student annually, and the fund needed is covered by the central government. The National Encouraging Scholarship has been set up for the first time, and is used to award the full-time students with excellent moral and academic records but low family incomes at common colleges and universities and higher vocational schools. The National Encouraging Scholarship covers 3% of the enrolled students at the colleges and universities across the nation, and adopts the standard of CNY 5,000 for each student per year. The central government and the local governments jointly set up the national student aids which are used to aid the enrolled full-time students from low-income families at common colleges and universities and higher vocational schools, all of the enrolled full-time rural students and students from urban low-income families at the medium vocational schools. The national student aid covers 20% of all the enrolled students at the standard of CNY 2,000 per student each year. At present, the central government and local governments earmark roughly CNY 30.8 billion, and about 4 million college students have the access to the scholarships and aids, and take more than 20% of the total enrolled students at colleges and universities.

Secondly, the educational loans. Since China started to implement the educational loan policy in 1999, the banks across the country had examined and approved the loan applications from 2.405 million students, and extended a total loan of CNY 20.14 billion.

Additionally, colleges and universities have also taken measures to help financially difficult students, including the delayed payment of tuitions, part-time jobs and difficulty aids.

Take Nankai University for example. Nankai University has established a sound student aid system to prevent any student from falling behind because of financial difficulty. The system principally consists of scholarships, educational aids, the national student loans and part-time jobs, supplemented by the temporary difficulty aid and the exemption and reduction of tuitions. Nearly 8,000 undergraduates, 53% of the total enrolled students, obtain various scholarships and aids valued more than CNY 9 million. As to the children of martyrs, orphans, single-parent children, children of the social lowest-income families, children of laid-off workers with financial difficulty, the aid object of the Western Development Student Aid Project, and the financially difficult students from the remote and poor regions, Nankai University has taken the following measures:

1) Delayed payment of tuitions. The students unable to hand over the tuitions because of financial difficulty can apply for the delayed payment of tuitions with the certificate of financial difficulty issued by the local town government, the civil affairs department, or the unit of parents;

2) National student loan. Each year up to 1,000 students obtain the national student loans, and the maximum amount of the loan is CNY 6,000 per student each year. 50% of the interest on the loans is covered by the fiscal department of the State, and the borrowing students bear the remaining 50%. The repayment period of the loans is in general no longer than four years after graduation of undergraduates, and the loans should be repaid every quarter of each year. If the borrowing students continue to study at Nankai University for further education after graduation, they can apply for the extension of the loans, and the repayment period can be extended to graduation of graduates.

3) Part-time jobs. Nankai University sets up 1,100 fixed part-time positions, including the office assistants within the campus, the floor head of student dormitory buildings, assistant library keepers, and information clerks. Each student taking a part-time job can obtain an aid of CNY 200 each month. In addition, Nankai University strives to develop social jobs (including private teachers), and seeks the enterprises and non-profit institutions with good social reputation to establish the cooperation so that they can provide part-time jobs for students.

4) Scholarships and student aids. Scholarships and student aids not only comprise the national scholarships, but include the university scholarships set up by the University as well. 40% of the students receive these scholarships and student aids. At the same time, the big names from all circles of the society and enterprises and non-profit institutions have created various special scholarships, such as Tsang Hin Chi Excellent Student Scholarship, Panasonic Scholarship, Cuncaojikun Aid Scholarship, Xiaolong Excellent Poor University Student Scholarship, Hong Kong Fuhui Special Scholarship, Chou Enlai Memorial Scholarship, Zhang Shunyao and Friends of Hong Kong Aid Scholarship, Yu Xintun Aid Scholarship, Macao Liao Xiyun and Luo Xue'er Couple Scholarship, Wang Kechang Scholarship, Shang Lin and Mei Ling Scholarship, Wang Wentian and Li Shuhua Scholarship, Baogang Scholarship, Toyota Scholarship, Samsung Scholarship, and so on.

5) Exemption and reduction of tuitions. Nankai University offers the preferential treatment to the aid object of the National Western Student Aid Project to the students that are unable to afford the tuitions because of financial difficulty and the students from Tianjin whose parents enjoy the lowest-income security policy with financial difficulty.

6) Difficulty aid. In addition to the aforesaid aid measures, Nankai University also offers various one-time difficulty aids to the financially difficult students free of charge according to the concrete situations. For example, the University grants the one-time temporary difficulty aids to the students whose family economic sources have unexpected changes, whose hometowns suffer serious disasters or who go to hospital for treatment.

The above measures effectively ensure that the students from low-income families can go to university equally just like other students, and will not interrupt the learning because of economic difficulty, thereby ensuring all the students can equally enjoy the right to higher education.

Finally, I want to stress that the human right undertaking is the common undertaking of the entire humankind, and calls for the active efforts by every nation for realization. As a university educational staff, I am convinced that China's higher education will contribute more to the undertaking under the guidance of the view of scientific development.

(The author is Secretary of Party Committee of Nankai University, and Director of Human Rights Research Center.)

(The speech was delivered at the first session of the Beijing Forum on Human Rights.)

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