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The emergence of higher vocational education (HVE) in China (1980-2007): vocationalism, Confucianism, and neoinstitutionalism Open Access


Other title
social equity
higher vocational education
Socialism with Chinese Characteristics
document content analysis
higher education stratification
Chinese higehr education reform
history of higher vocational education in China
policy studies
institutional activities of higher vocational education
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Xiong, Jie
Supervisor and department
Grace, Andre (Educational Policy Studies)
Kapoor, Dip (Educational Policy Studies)
Taylor, Alison (Educational Policy Studies)
Examining committee member and department
Guo, Shibao (Faculty of Education, University of Calgary)
Abdi, Ali (Educational Policy Studies)
Smith, David (Secondary Education)
Peters, Frank (Educational Policy Studies)
Department of Educational Policy Studies

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This study examines how political-economic and socio-cultural influences had impacted the institutional development of HVE in China by investigating the historical development process of HVE between 1980 and 2007, when the country was undergoing tremendous political, economic, and social transitions toward building Socialism with Chinese Characteristics. With the research method of document content analysis, the study reveals causes, effects, and trends of HVE development through comparisons between HVE-related policy contents concerning major HVE institutional realities including contexts, missions, structures, access, tuition, curricula, teaching staff, graduate employment, funding and governance, and social status. Within a theoretical framework utilizing vocationalism, Confucianism, and neoinstitutionalism, analysis and discussion resulted in a number of findings. First, the development of HVE in China embodied a trend of vocationalism, which has led and is leading to higher education expansion, higher education restructuring, and a positive change of Chinese people’s views on careers. Second, in addition to its discrimination against skills/skilled workers, the mechanism of upward mobility entailed in Confucianism was another major reason causing resistance to HVE. Third, given the increasingly competitive Civil Service Examination, Chinese people’s views on careers were not synchronized to the mass higher education system that was underway in China. Fourth, while supporting HVE, vocationalism itself created problems for HVE. A new vocationalist view was needed for future HVE development. Confucianism may contribute to such a new vocationalist view drawing on humanities education and the mechanism of upward mobility, though its notion of scholar-officials was critiqued for impeding the development of HVE. Fifth, HVE students had been treated unequally in the whole process of studying in HVE from admission to participation to graduation. Sixth, from a neoinstitutionalist perspective, the development of HVE represented the process of its instutionalization, in which HVE needed to obtain legitimacy. Absence of legitimacy was the major reason causing various challenges facing the development of HVE. Seventh, the development of HVE indicated institutional isomorphic changes in Chinese higher education. Eighth, biased policy causing stratification of Chinese higher education was another major factor leading to various challenges facing HVE.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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