Higher Education, Meritocracy and Inequality in China

Research output: Book/ReportBookpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


This book investigates the changing opportunities in higher education for different social groups during China’s transition from the socialist regime to a market economy. The first part of this book provides an historical and comparative analysis of the development of the idea of meritocracy, since its early origins in China, and in more recent western thought. The second part then explores higher education reforms in China, the part played by supposedly meritocratic forms of selection, and the implications of these for social mobility.
Based on original empirical data, Ye Liu sheds light on socio-economic, gender and geographical inequality behind the meritocratic façade of the Gaokao(高考). Liu argues that the Chinese philosophical belief in education-based meritocracy had a modern makeover in the Gaokao and that this ideology induces working-class and rural students to believe in upward social mobility through higher education. When the Gaoko broke the promise of status improvement for rural students, they turned to the Chinese Communist Party and sought political connections by actively applying for its membership. This book reveals a bleak picture of visible and invisible inequality in access and participation in higher education in contemporary China. Written in an accessible style, it appeals to both the academics and non-specialist readers.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationSingapore
Number of pages221
ISBN (Electronic)2365-6360
ISBN (Print)9789811015861, 9789811093937
Publication statusPublished - 17 Oct 2016

Publication series

NameHigher Education in Asia: Quality, Excellence and Governance
ISSN (Print)2365-6352
ISSN (Electronic)2365-6360


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