Where is the education industry headed in China? Two interesting articles from the SCMP shed light on the possibilities. One is about plans for the GBA University in Dongguan, which is being overseen by academics with elite CVs and will have no shortage of government investment. Another is about a contrasting initiative in the private sector, of a Hong Kong-listed company that appears undaunted by the recent regulatory crackdown on the education sector.
Edvantage, a privately run tertiary education institution with a market cap of nearly US$1bn (after the recent selloff), is aiming to expand its campuses in Zhaoqing and Jiangmen, two of the GBA’s less developed municipalities. Its management says the recent regulatory crackdown on private-sector educational institutions doesn’t affect the tertiary sector, and its campuses are in low-cost locations. This means the company should be able to continue to fill a niche in China’s education industry, as its courses are more practical for job-seekers than the traditional state-owned universities.
By contrast, the new university being built in Dongguan by the city government is aiming to be a world-class educational institution, the “MIT of the GBA”. Its first phase will cost US$1.5bn to build and students are expected to start attending in 2023. It will be led by top mathematician Tian Gang, former vice-president of Peking University and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and administrator Dai Changliang, former deputy head of the human resources department of Peking University.
There can be little doubt that the Central Government is going to want to see the GBA University succeed. Edvantage, however, might be facing a tougher climb, given the apparent insistence of the government to bring down the anxiety of parents by reducing educational costs. Their contrasting fortunes will be a good example of how China’s education reforms pan out in the coming years.