Presenter: Du Xiaoxin, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org
This video is posted as part of the 3 Minute Thesis Video Competition hosted by the Comparative & International Education Society's New Scholar Committee (https://ciesnewscholars.wordpress.com/what-we-do/3mincomp/).
Transcript: Role Split Phenomenon in Chinese Higher Education
You might have the impression that universities in China do not enjoy autonomy since they are politically controlled by the party-state. Yes, there is control. The control is implemented in these ways: 10% credits on political education courses, counselors supervising students’ ideology and patriotic singing contest held on campus every year. These mechanisms are called political socialization. But did these mechanisms of political control totally destroy university autonomy, academic freedom and critical thinking?
I reviewed documents, conducted survey, observation and interview in a university as case study to find the answer. I found that there is a tension between the state’s demand on political socialization and the university’s pursuit on fostering of critical thinkers. My research revealed that, to manage this tension, university itself, staff and students, interacted with each other and they had all developed a strategy of role split.
They perform two different roles. University is implementing control. It develops multiple ways of political education, but it is also autonomy promoter giving freedom to teachers in course delivering; teachers are aware of what contents are politically sensitive, they practice self-censorship in classes, but they are also academic freedom fighters providing students with balanced views and allowing students contributing divergent ideas; students are used to uniformed political ideology and they know what to write on their political examination paper, but they are also autonomous learners participating in international exchanges to broaden their own horizon with diversified information. Role split is a game they play.
So the scenario is like this: contrasting performances co-exist in Chinese higher education: university sets up College of Marxism and center of innovation at the same time; teachers cover their severe criticisms on Chinese government with ironic metaphors; students apply to join the communist party while they might also read officially banned academic books. They are torn apart inside to pursue university autonomy, academic freedom and critical thinking.
You might not see violence, but people are wrestling. And it is a real fight.