Biotechnology and Life Sciences Education in China - Changes in the quality of Chinese universities has allowed the biotechnology sector to grow - BioPharm International


Biotechnology and Life Sciences Education in China
Changes in the quality of Chinese universities has allowed the biotechnology sector to grow

BioPharm International
Volume 20, Issue 11


Figure 3. China's GDP and national budgetary education allocation (NBEA) (1998–2004)
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.

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.


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.


Life Sciences Education Timeline
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.


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.

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