Chapter 4 in Morgan, W.J., Wu, B., (eds.), Higher Education Reform in China: Beyond the Expansion, pp 63-75

Introduction The Chinese higher education system has been undergoing a rapid and farreaching transition (Min, 2005) with the changes driven particularly by accelerating globalization (UNESCO, 2003). One of the most fundamental changes is that private higher education, which began from zero, has very quickly assumed an increasingly important role in the expansion of higher education. However, although private higher education has achieved tremendous developments since its establishment, it has been thwarted by many problems or challenges, with poor educational quality and unemployment problems among graduates prominent. These are important social issues and have even been of political consequence for government, since complaints or distrust of private universities or colleges may cause public disquiet and even confl ict. 1 However, there are some problems that might not be so obvious and direct, but are gradual and profound, with social stratifi cation of private higher education a key example. There are only a few studies on access to high quality private higher education and the acquisition of labour market qualifi cations by underprivileged groups, since many people thought equality was not an important aim for private higher education in China. This is an issue that we have addressed previously and the present chapter builds on that discussion and does so with permission (Li and Morgan, 2008).