SFERC Research Brief 2021-2

SFERC Research Brief 2021-2

Suggestions for Chinese regional university transformation through the mirror of Finnish experience


Source publication: Cai, Y., Yang, P., Lyytinen, A., and Hölttä, S. (2015). “Seeking Solutions Through the Mirror of Finnish Experience: Policy Recommendations for Regional University Transformation in China.” Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 37(4), 447-458.


One of the most profound reform in Chinese higher education is to transform around 600 regional higher education institutions (administered by provincial educational authorities) into vocationally and professionally oriented institutions. To design and implement the reform, China is keen to learn from international experience. A comparative analysis of Chinese and Finnish higher education shows that Finnish experience of developing universities of applied sciences is of high relevance to Chinese regional university transformation. This is for the following reasons:

  • The involvement of government in vocational education and training is strong in both countries.
  • In both countries, students mainly receive their vocational education via school-based training.
  • The Finnish economic transformation in the 1990s has similarities to the current Chinese situation.
  • The challenges in the Chinese regional university transformation are similar to those in the process of establishing Finnish universities of applied sciences over 20 years ago.

Using Finnish experience as a lens, the following suggestions are provided for reform of transforming regional universities in China.

  • Pass legislation that allows for applied universities to be given the same legal standing as traditional universities. This is beneficial in the long run as the societal status increases as more applied university graduates receive employment.
  • Research is not specific only for the research universities, applied institutions can also conduct research which is maily for the needs of local economic development.
  • Applied universities should have a strong link with the industry, by employing industry experts as teachers at the institutions, however, these teachers must be given pedagogical training.
  • The curriculum must be designed to engage students and to give them a comprehensive overview of the industry.
  • Chinese regional universities could benefit more from the Finnish experience through close collaboration with Finnish universities of applied sciences, including joint education provision.



Fatema Irfan