The Program for Research on Private Higher Education
Dedicated to Building Knowledge about Private Higher Education around the World
WP No.17

Organizational Diversity in Chinese Private Higher Education


Cai, Yuzhuo and Yan, Fengqiao. 2011. "Organizational Diversity in Chinese Private Higher Education". PROPHE Working Paper No.17. Revised and published as: Cai Yuzhuo and Fengqiao Yan (2011) "Organizational Diversity in Chinese Private Higher Education" in Pedro N. Teixeira and David D. Dill (eds.) Public Vices, Private Virtues? Assessing the Effects of Marketization in Higher Education, pp47-66, Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.


Organizational diversity has been empirically proved as a prevailing phenomenon in the global expansion of private higher education. Chinese private higher education, which surged as a response to supplement public education provision and absorb demands in the education market, demonstrates different organizational forms and operational models. While there is ample evidence about variations in private higher education, there is a lack of theoretical accounts for the diversity. This article tries to provide a theoretical understanding of organizational diversity in Chinese private higher education through a revised lens of institutionalism. It discovers a number of conditions leading to diversification of private higher education in China, such as the short history as an organizational field, lack of firm or extensive legal and normative framework, severe inter-organizational competition, decentralized system and variations of economies and policies among provinces, higher institutional autonomy, as well as hierarchy and business nature. At the same time, the paper finds isomorphic tendencies due to private institutions’ imitation of programs from their public counterparts and inter-organizational imitation within the private sector, arising from shared values among teachers and increasing governmental regulation on private higher education.

Date Published:
Mar 2011