China has the largest higher-education system in the world, and its growth rate has outstripped the Chinese economy in recent years.
As China’s economy has liberalized and grown, enrollments in China’s institutes of higher education have been shooting up too. In 1990, only 3.4 percent of eighteen-to-twenty-two-year-olds benefited from any form of higher education; this figure reached 7.2 percent in 1995 and 12.5 percent in 2000. In 2002 the internationally acknowledged threshold of mass higher education, 15 percent of the age cohort , was reached, with China’s ministry of education reporting total enrollments of 16 million in all forms of higher education . This figure can be compared to the total enrollments of 16.6 million in degree-granting institutions in the United States in 2002. Of course the population of China is more than five times larger than that of the United States, but this nevertheless means that China probably has the largest higher-education system in the world.