China's national education expenditures have been increasing in recent years (Figure 3). Despite this recent growth, overall
education investment by the Chinese government is still very low when compared with international averages. In 2004, national
education budget expenditures (NBEA) totaled $90.5 billion. However, this only accounted for 2.8% of the country's gross domestic
product (GDP). The Chinese government's goal is to reach 4% GDP in the near future.
Figure 3. China's GDP and national budgetary education allocation (NBEA) (1998–2004)
The cost of higher education has grown dramatically in China. Before the 1990s, higher education was tuition-free for undergraduate
students. Since then, tuition has been levied and fees have risen, and now exceed $625 per academic year. This is still extremely
low when compared with tuition in the US, where public universities charged an average of $6,794 in 2003, and some private
US institutions charged in excess of $30,000. Nonetheless, about 20% of Chinese university students are facing significant
challenges to pay off their tuition fees, because of shortages of public funding and student loans.
LIFE SCIENCES EDUCATION IN CHINA
Biotechnology degrees are offered at 235 universities in China, and more than 500 universities or colleges offer full biology-related
programs. In 2004, there were more than 150,000 undergraduate students enrolled in biology-related programs. Between 1996
and 2002, 15,000 PhD students were enrolled in biology-related majors. Based on this data, 30,000 biology PhD students will
obtain their degrees between 2005 and 2020.3
Enrollment of biology undergraduate students has increased dramatically. In 1997, 48,093 undergraduate students were enrolled
in biology. In 2003, enrollment rose to 152,209.
Modern medical education has a 100-year history in China. In 1903, the government of the Qing Dynasty established the Medical
Clinic at the Royal Capital Higher Educational Institute, and the level of medical education has greatly improved in terms
of size, quality, and efficiency. Today, China has 177 higher medical education institutions, with an enrollment of 718,400
students in 2000, but gaps still exist. In China, a medical professional who holds a bachelor's degree in medicine and has
one year of practicing experience can take the licensed doctor exam and obtain a legal medical doctor license. China has developed
an evaluation system to evaluate its medical universities, however; this may lead to improvements.
Life Sciences Education Timeline
PROBLEMS AND CHALLENGES FACING CHINESE UNIVERSITIES
China's higher education system is now shifting its focus from size expansion to quality improvement. It faces four key hurdles:
Lack of funds: The annual expenses of a Chinese undergraduate is 5% of that of a US undergraduate.
Shortage of faculty: The current teacher to student ratio is 1:16 versus 1:14 in the US.
International integration: The Chinese government has promised to open higher education markets to the outside world, forcing competition.