Higher Education Expansion and Earnings Premium: A Comparative Study of Two Systems in China

Jin Jiang, Hon-kwong Lui*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


Tertiary education in the Chinese mainland has undergone unprecedented expansion since 1999, whereas the most recent expansion in Hong Kong was announced in 2000. Confucian philosophy, prevalent among ethnic Chinese, suggests that education is a fair qualification for selecting elites for high-paid jobs. However, economic structures and popular cultures differ considerably. This article examines the economic returns of a rapid expansion of higher education in two areas, Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland, with different economic systems but the same cultural heritage, i.e., the Confucian philosophy and its work culture. The results support the view that the declining quality of university graduates is the prime reason for shrinking earnings premium in both systems. The governments should revisit the policies of higher education development and shift the emphasis from quantity to quality, and quality assurance in particular. There is a global trend to establish a quality assurance framework to oversee higher education, and a similar development is observed in the Chinese mainland and in Hong Kong.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalChina Perspectives
Issue number136
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Political Science and International Relations

User-Defined Keywords

  • Confucianism
  • earnings premium
  • higher education expansion
  • human capital
  • one country
  • two systems


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