The Program for Research on Private Higher Education
Dedicated to Building Knowledge about Private Higher Education around the World
PHE Dissertation 2

Private Higher Education and the Labor Market in China: Institutional Management Efforts & Initial Employment Outcomes


By Yingxia Cao

A dissertation submitted to Educational Administration & Policy Studies, State University of New York at Albany

Defense Committee:

Daniel Levy, Chair (SUNY at Albany)
Alan Wagner (SUNY at Albany)
Fengqiao Yan (Peking University)

Defended: December 2007 

The proliferation of demand-absorbing and commercial private higher education institutions is one of the most extraordinary developments reshaping the landscape in the worldwide higher education of the latest decades. With the growth, however, has come considerable debates and skepticism. One key area of controversy involves efforts and performance regarding graduate employment. China is a major case epitomizing the international trends. This research thus investigates how and how well private colleges in China have managed efforts to link private higher education to the labor market.

The research finds that Chinese private colleges have made major efforts to link private higher education to the labor market and that their efforts are well received by the labor market and their graduates. A mixed methods research design triangulates and validates the findings, with both quantitative and qualitative data. The analysis of qualitative data focuses on mission, provided fields of study, educational delivery, and career services. It reveals that the private colleges not only include meeting labor market demands in their mission, they also improve student employability and bridge graduates and employers through providing job-oriented fields of study, educational delivery, career services, and networking. The analysis of self-reported quantitative data by their graduates examines employment status, starting salary, job and educational level match, job and field match, job and skills/knowledge match, job satisfaction, as well as graduate feedback on the worthiness of private higher education and satisfaction with various management efforts. Both initial employment outcomes and graduate feedback reflect positive picture about the appreciation of institutional efforts by the labor market and the graduates.

Yet the research also finds wide variations in efforts and outcomes among the colleges. In examining the outcome variations and possible related factors, it identifies two likely relevant efforts: the existence of separate offices for career services and niche-field designation. The former is positively, whereas the latter is negatively associated with various outcomes. Based on summarized effort and outcome variations, this study builds a conceptual model to distinguish serious demand-absorbing colleges from those low quality mere demand-absorbers, with eight criteria on the “effort” dimension and seven criteria on the “outcome” dimension.

Link to the dissertation from the publisher:

Date Published:
Dec 2007