This paper analyzes the energy conservation situation in China's higher education institutions (HEIs). A case study was conducted in Changchun, Jilin, where eight HEIs of various types were examined. An analysis of government policies was also performed. The findings indicate that the HEIs have implemented comprehensive non-technical initiatives to conserve electricity, including electricity restrictions and extensions of winter breaks, as well as certain technical initiatives. The HEIs are less enthusiastic in conserving thermal energy due to a lack of financial incentives and resources. Differences between the HEIs are also noted. This paper discusses the role of key players, including administrators, government agencies, networks, students and non-government organizations (NGOs). Challenges to energy conservation are also identified, such as the lack of investment by schools, lack of government funding, quality problems in energy conservation products, inadequate heat metering reform, underperformance of energy service companies (ESCOs), and conflicts between energy conservation and student welfare. Policy recommendations are offered based on the analysis results.