Online education in China

The  current policy of the Chinese Ministry of Education (MOE) on the delivery of online education in China dates back to its policy piece released in 2000 “Opinions on supporting several universities to establish pilot distance education colleges ” (In Chinese,《关于支持若干所高等学校建设网络教育学院开展现代远程教育试点工作的几点意见》(教高厅[2000]10号)).
 
Since 2000, the MOE has approved 68 higher education institutions to establish pilot distance education colleges/online and continuing education colleges, including Peking University, Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Shanghai Jiaotong University, Fudan University and the Open University of China (OUC).
 
Pilot distance education, online and continuing education colleges are approved to deliver non-award education (which equates to training programs or 非学历教育), and award education (which results in certificates of completion or 学历教育) but they are not approved to deliver degree education (学位教育). Anyone can sign up for these online programs and they are generally taken by junior and senior college students, and professionals.
 
The OUC is part of the broader Radio and TV University system, which includes OUC, 44 provincial radio and television universities, more than 900 prefectural/civic branch schools and more than 1,800 district/county work stations. The majority of courses are a blend of face-to-face sessions and online/distance learning. The OUC does not have degree granting authority, and can only issue certificates of completion. Only Chinese nationals can be accepted into the OUC.
 
The awarded certificates of completion conferred by MOE approved pilot colleges are recognised nationwide. However, for the purposes of post study employment, it is up to individual employers and employing organisations as to the value they place on these types of awards. Some parts of the private sector are likely to place more emphasis on the ability of the employee rather than the qualification (award and/or degree). Many Chinese government organisations still require a degree qualification.
 
Students who receive online awards can in some circumstances sit additional face to face exams to have their award converted into a degree (which will note on the testamur that it was earned through Adult Education), but online awards (and subsequent degrees) do not have the academic standing of traditional Chinese university degrees.
 
While the MOE is actively encouraging people to undertake non-award and award education through online education, to help promote lifelong learning, no institution is authorised to deliver degree education online in China.
 
For further enquiries, please contact Mr Christopher Lawson, First Secretary (Education and Research), Australian Embassy in Beijing.