Journal Article

Regional Inequality of Higher Education in China and the Role of Unequal Economic Development


  • Bickenbach
  • F.
  • Liu
  • W.-H.

Over the past decade the scale of higher education in China has expanded substantially. Regional development policies have attempted to make use of scale expansion as a tool to reduce inequality of higher education among regions with different development levels by providing poor regions with preferential treatment and support. This paper analyses a provincial dataset (1997–2008), aiming to provide comprehensive quantitative evidence for the development of the inequality of opportunity in higher education across provinces in China over the period of scale expansion. Results show that, for higher education, regional inequality relative to provincial population size clearly decreased over the research period. Accompanying the reduction in overall inequality across provinces, inequality between poor and rich regions actually increased over the same period. However, the increase was realised in favour of the poor region. The empirical results are consistent with the policy orientation of reforming the higher education system and of promoting regional development in China over the past decade.


JEL Classification
C43, I23, I28, R53, R58


  • China