Zhang Min-xuan (1997)

Zhang Min-xuan (1997). Li xiang yu jue ze: da xue sheng zi zhu zheng ce de guo ji bi jiao (Conceptions and choices: a comparative study on student financial support policies). Bei-jing: Ren min jiao yu chu ban she

An overview of the book (61 English words):

This book offers a comparative study of university student financial support policies and the underlying concepts, support means and policy implementation problems. Out of seven national case studies, United Kingdom, Japan and United States represent the three major models of students’ financial support system. The remaining four Asian-Pacific countries provide new comparative perspectives for reforms of university student’s financial support policies. The book author, Prof. Zhang Min-xuan, was awarded for the “Excellent Academic Achievement”  in 2000 by the Federation of Philosphy and Social Sciences of Shanghai.

Abstract (684 English words, cited from the book, pp.7-9):

The world has witnessed a profound and radical reform in student financial support policies in the past two decades. Why and how to support students? Such questions challenge governments, international organizations, scholars and societies at large. The present comparative study focuses on the questions and answers in the context of social and economic transition.

Besides the introduction of the study, the volume is composed of four sub-themes. The first sub-theme presents a historical observation to the main conceptions sustaining financial support policies in different eras. Three findings were induced through the historical analysis. Firstly, there emerged five pairs of basic concepts since student financial support appeared in Paris and Oxford colleges in late Middle Ages. They are: charity and interests; right of the workers and peasants and cultivation of cadres; equal opportunity of higher education and human capital investment. In recent reform the new concepts equity and development came to the center. Chapters 2 an  3 unfold the core implications of each pair of the conceptions and relevant contexts, theories and contributions. Secondly, concepts from two different dimensions-the concepts for the students as individuals and the concepts for the community or society as the public-often kept company. The mentioned five pairs of concepts show the tendency. Thirdly, there is a ripple-effect in the concept revolution. If some small stones are thrown into the pool the previous ripples might be emerged, covered or pressed to the margin, or totally disappeared. When some new concepts came, the latest concepts often came to the center, while other concepts would be merged, or disappeared. It is just from here, namely, what the relationships among the concepts are, the policies in various countries presented their differences and hence the world presents its diversification.

The second sub-theme classifies and parallels the direct support approaches and operational techniques in various sub-themes, especially in student loans. Chapter 3 groups seven direct approaches into two categories, The first called “the gifted aid group? Merit scholarship, need-based grant, voucher, and work-study are put on this group. The second “deferred payment aid group? student loans, graduate tax and employer’s contribution are gathered in it. Gifted approaches are generous, yet they do not naturally mean equitable to the social-economically disadvantaged students. The author tried to summarize the claims to retrench the gifted approach scale, and to analyze the rationales to adopt deferred payment approaches.

Tuition fee exemption is discussed separately, as tuition fee exemption is considered to be a common but special approach. All the students receive some easy to neglect and direct financial support, when they are offered free higher education or when the fees they have to pay are far from the full cost. On the other hand, some student are offered some tangible and direct support when the fees they should pay are exempted.

Student loan is an attractive approach tried by over 50 countries, yet to adopt it efficiently, various operational problems have to be solved. This made the author to concentrate on operational techniques of student loans (Chapter 5), such as resource and administrative mechanism, target, function and interest rate, repayment and default, hidden grant and repayment exemption. In author’s personal view contingent loans managed by social security authority might be most efficient, effective and feasible for developing countries.

Through seven cases, the third sub-theme (Chapters 6, 7 and 8) illuminates three basic policy models in the world after World War Two-fee-free plus grant; student loans and combination models. It also describes recent innovations in Asian Pacific Area through state-case panoramas. The seven cases selected are the British policy before 1990, the Japanese policy since the mid-1940s, the American federal policy formed in the 1960s, the new Australian contingent loan scheme, and experiences in Hong Kong of China, Malaysia and Singapore.

The case of the People’s Republic of China forms the last sub-theme and the last chapter (Chapter 8) of the book. The author scrutinized why the fee-free plus People’s Grant policy could be carried on for 30 years, and why and how China shifted to the new policy characterized by fee-paying plus an alternative combination model of student financial support.

Introduction to the author:

Prof. Zhang Min-xuan currently becomes the Dean of the Shanghai Normal University, doing various types of research on financing, economics of education (esp. university student loan scheme) and launching educational reforms in Mainland China with rich, international studying and researching experiences in Hong Kong (at Comparative Education Research Centre), United Kingdom (at College of Education, Oxford), United States of America and Canada. In April-May 1998, he assisted UNICEF in Cambodia with an assessment of the costs of clusters and of the effectiveness of UNICEF inputs by drafting an action plan of proposing ways to spread resources to parts of the country which had not been reached.

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