Chinese universities increase tuition fees amid reduced budget for tertiary education and tight local government finances

Shanghai Dianji University 

6th June 2023 – (Beijing) Chinese universities are facing a significant increase in tuition fees this year, with some making their first rise in two decades. This is due to the reduced national budget for tertiary education and tight local government finances, which have been exacerbated by a financial crunch caused by three years of disruptive COVID-19 policies, a property crisis, and a sluggish economy. The vast majority of Chinese universities are public institutions and heavily rely on state funding.

The Shanghai-based East China University of Science and Technology, for instance, raised tuition fees by 54% to 7,700 yuan ($1,082) annually for some freshmen majoring in science, engineering, and physical education, and by 30% in the liberal arts, according to statements issued on Sunday. Shanghai Dianji University also increased tuition by 40% for science and engineering students, while students majoring in management, economics, and literature will have to pay 30% more compared to the previous year. In April, the financial hub of Shanghai decided after a public hearing to raise tuition fees, which had remained unchanged for over two decades, for the academic year starting in the autumn.

China’s densely populated southwestern province of Sichuan and northeastern province of Jilin also increased tuition fees for different majors, with the maximum increase as much as 41% in Sichuan, according to local government statements.

The education ministry’s expected budget expenditure for tertiary education in 2023 fell 3.7% to 102.6 billion yuan from the previous year, according to a budget report from the ministry. This has contributed to the financial pressure on universities, leading to the tuition fee hikes.

A research team led by senior education experts last month also called for a significant increase in university tuition fees for international students, according to a study led by Beijing Institute of Technology professor Liu Jin. The study suggested raising tuition fees for international students to as much as 110,000 yuan per year from about 20,000 yuan.