After the deliberation and approval of its leading Party group, the Ministry of Education released the OUC Comprehensive Reform Plan on 31 August 2020. The plan includes background, guiding principles and overall thought, specific tasks, and guarantee measures, as well as organisation and implementation. The full text reads as follows.

The OUC Comprehensive Reform Plan

 The Open University of China (OUC), a new-style university established on the basis of China Central Radio and TV University (CCRTVU) in June 2020, is dedicated to lifelong education in China. Since its establishment, major progress has been made in education and teaching, management service, and transformational development. However, the OUC still faces problems such as unclear positioning, an incomplete system, and unsatisfactory quality compared with the deployment of “building an education system that serves lifelong learning for all” and the requirements of building a learning society, which has a negative impact on the sound development of the open education cause. In order to further study and put into effect general secretary Xi Jinping’s important addresses on education and put into place the guiding principles of the Fourth Plenary Session of the Nineteenth Party Congress and the National Education Conference, and to bring the advantages of the system into greater play, the OUC should strengthen areas of weakness to “build an educational system serving the lifelong learning for all.” The OUC should rationalise the system, innovate the mechanism, clarify the positioning, and strengthen the coordination. The OUC should solve bottleneck problems restricting development by deepening reform and advancing the OUC’s overall transformational development in the new era. The OUC should improve the university’s education quality and upgrade the modernisation level of the university’s governance system and capacity. This plan is hereby put forward in order to achieve these goals.

I. Background of the reform

(I) Strengthen and bring into play the OUC’s 40 years of advantages in running the university as a system.

The predecessor of the OUC was the CCRTVU, which was established with the advocacy and approval of Comrade Deng Xiaoping in 1978. Over the last 40 years, the OUC, together with 44 provincial radio and TV universities (RTVUs, local open universities) as well as branches (RTVUs or open universities) in prefectural-level cities and prefectures and district and county workstations (RTVUs and open universities), has created a nationwide integrated educational system of open education. A total of 20.5 million students have been admitted to degree education programmes and 15.12 million of them graduated. The OUC found solutions to the problem of degree redemption for the two generations born in the 1950s and 1960s and established a successful path based on “advanced communication and famous lectures by renowned teachers.” The OUC has established the fine tradition of “respecting learning, making it universally beneficial, and providing education to all people with no distinctions,” developed the human resources needed for reform and opening-up, accumulated experience to provide higher education and vocational education to on-the-job personnel in China at a low cost but with high efficiency, and demonstrated the institutional advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics. The OUC’s institutional innovation, experience accumulation, and practical exploration of running the university nationwide as a system has been recognised in China and abroad. 

(II) Summarise and extend experience from the pilot of “exploring the building model of open universities”.

In 2010, the National Outline for Medium and Long-term Educational Reform and Development (2010-2020) (hereinafter referred to as the Education Outline) stated the need to “create an improved learning system with tolerant entry requirements but strict exit requirements and to successfully operate open universities.” In the same year, the Circular of the General Office of the State Council on Pilot Implementation of the National Education System Reform stated that “exploration of the construction model of open universities” was scheduled to begin pilot operation in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guangdong, Yunnan, and China Central Radio and TV University. In July 2012, the OUC was solemnly unveiled at the Great Hall of the People. The year 2020 marks the completion of the tasks specified in the Education Outline, and it has been nearly 10 years since the pilot of the OUC’s “exploration of a construction model for open universities.” Positive progress has been made. The quality of school running has improved steadily, the positioning of school running has been clearer, and the construction of the system has been enhanced. A new model of “Internet Plus Education” has taken shape, and a new system of jointly running the school through extensive cooperation with all walks of life has been established. The OUC have expanded the integrated development of higher education, vocational education, and continuing education, promoted equal access to education, upgraded the supply capacity and service level of lifelong education in China, and offered powerful support to the construction of a learning society and a system of lifelong learning for all. These explorations have accumulated practical experience of how open universities can meet the needs of education modernisation, further deepen reform in the new round of educational changes, concentrate efforts on major initiatives, integrate educational resources, cultivate core competences, and better undertake the new mission of “shaping an education system serving lifelong learning for all.”

(III) To rationalise and clarify the system and mechanism of the integrated development of open education. According to the deployment in the Circular of the General Office of the State Council on Pilot Implementation of the National Education System Reform, the Ministry of Education gave approval in succession to the 5 provincial RTVUs in Beijing, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Guangdong and Yunnan to change their names to local open universities in 2012. However, the train of thought for overall transformation in the system has not been clarified. The other 39 provincial level RTVUs (including RTVUs of 25 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities under the direct administration of the central government, the RTVU of Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, and RTVUs of cities specifically designated in the state plan or sub-provincial cities) has remained unchanged. However, there is a growing demand for a name change among these RTVUs, with the hope of better integrating into the OUC system and leveraging its name to expand their influence. Today, the 39 provincial RTVUs have been included in the OUC’s pilot project “exploring a construction model for open universities” and are responsible for implementing local education and teaching on behalf of the OUC under the name “OUC branches.” However, performing the tasks of “open universities” in the name of “RTVUs” creates difficulties in terms of managing the process and supervising the quality of open education, and risks reducing the coherence and competence of the educational system.

II. Guiding ideology and overall concept of the reform

(IV) Guiding ideology: The OUC should positively promote the “building of an education system of lifelong education for all” by taking Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era as its guide and seizing the opportunity provided by the fast development of online education. Guided by problems and targets, the OUC should persist in the overall transformation of RTVUs on the basis of the unchanged original right of running the school in order to rationalise the relationship between the OUC and other local open universities and establish a unified national lifelong education service and management mechanism. The OUC should further improve the personnel cultivation capacity of open universities, optimise the structure of high-tech talents, and improve the efficiency of education quality. The OUC should take the initiative to boost the development of “Internet Plus Education” and form a powerful synergy between lifelong education and a learning society in an effort to build a first-class global open university with Chinese characteristics and become a new style of university with significant influence in the field of open education around the world.

(V) Fundamental principle: The OUC should holistically advance reform and development based on the principle of “building of an education system of lifelong learning for all.” The OUC should put into effect the guiding principles of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China and modernise its governance system and capacity. The OUC should leverage the obvious advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics to enact a coordinated national responseand to strengthen coordination based on the overall situation. The OUC should pursue progress while ensuring stability, maximise the integration of resources, and strengthen areas of weakness and close loopholes to make greater contributions to building an education power. 

(VI) Goal: The OUC should get adapt to educational development trends including digitalisation, intelligence, lifelong learning, and integration. Over the next five years, educational systems and mechanisms of open education should be reformed and optimised to find solutions to problems such as unclear positioning, incomplete systems, and unsatisfactory quality. To this end, the OUC will be made into a major platform for lifelong education in China, a major platform for online education, and a platform for flexible education and foreign cooperation, as well as a prominent force serving lifelong education for all and a powerful bolster for a technical society.

The following goals will be gradually realised by 2025:

----The OUC’s innate characteristics will be better defined and the concept of a new-type of university will be given heavier weight. The position of the OUC as a university will be guaranteed according to laws and regulations such as the Higher Education Law of the People’s Republic of China. Furthermore, relevant rights and policies for running the school will be put to effect, and Party’s leadership and construction will be comprehensively strengthened.

---- The OUC’s national educational system will be improved and provincial RTVUs will be transformed into local open universities in order to form an integrated educational pattern with a coordinated national response.

---- Prioritising the development of both degree education and non-degree education and further integrating information technology into education and teaching will become a reality. Education and teaching quality will be steadily improved so that it can lead national online education. A platform for lifelong education for all with advanced technology and powerful functions will be built to lead the rapid, stable development of “Internet Plus Education.”

III. Specific tasks and guarantee measures of the reform 

(VII) Further define the OUC’s nature and positioning.

The OUC is a new-style university operated directly under the Ministry of Education, entrusted with a mission to promote lifelong learning. It is supported by modern information technology, characterised by “Internet Plus,” and oriented towards providing open education to the Chinese. Under the leadership of the Ministry of Education, the OUC will coordinate the construction of the national open education system, guide and serve the operation of open education, focus on building a lifelong learning public service platform, offer lifelong education and service oriented to the entire nation, and propose the “anyone can learn anytime and anywhere” initiative. The Ministry of Education manages and guides the OUC’s education and teaching in line with it relevant requirements for universities.

(VIII) Expand the OUC’s education coverage.

Open education at the OUC includes both degree and non-degree education, both of which are mainly provided by way of part-time education under the implementation of registration admission and a complete credit system. Under the guidance of the Ministry of Education, the OUC offers junior college and undergraduate continuing education programmes. Based on the characteristics of open education, practical and skilled disciplinary majors that are close to the needs of the market, industry, and jobs have been established. It is imperative that the OUC enthusiastically serve the national strategy, positively explore postgraduate education, and apply for the legal authorisation to confer master’s degree oriented towards vocational needs. It should focus on cultivating practical capacity through collaboration between enterprises, universities, research institutes, and end-users. In order to constantly meet the needs of society, the OUC should step up its efforts to offer non-degree education, increase short-term flexible education, strengthen connection and integration with community education and education for older adults, and expand community education and social trainings for older adults. Community education should become a new channel for the nation to learn, social training should become a new brand of open education, and education for older adults should become a highlight in the field of education. Legal, rule-based explorations of international education should be conducted in order to strengthen educational exchanges and cooperation with countries and regions along the route of the Belt and Road initiative.

(IX) Reform the OUC’s operation management system.

The OUC should further strengthen the Party’s leadership of the university’s work and uphold and improve the presidential responsible system under the leadership of the CPC Committee. The OUC should enhance its comprehensive internal efforts to ensure that the Party’s political work is stressed, ideology is strengthened, organisations are consolidated, conduct is improved, and discipline is maintained. CPC members will play an exemplary and vanguard role in making primary-level Party organisations the frontline of reform and development. The OUC should deepen the reform of internal systems and mechanisms and the reform of personnel and distribution, build high quality management teams and teacher teams, and mobilise the enthusiasm, initiative, and creativity of its officials and teaching staff.

Based on the relevant laws and regulations, the OUC operates independently as a new-style of university and determines aspects of its own operation, including internal subdivisions, staffing of education and teaching, scientific research, social services, and Party and administrative functions. Based on the standard, orderly personnel institutional system established and improved in light of the relevant regulations of the state, the Ministry of Education will enhance its efforts to streamline administration and delegate more powers to the university. The OUC should apply for the authorisation to review applications for senior professional titles in accordance with the relevant regulations of the state.

(X) Promote the transformation of existing RTVUs into local open universities.

The OUC should offer impetus to the people’s governments of the relevant provinces, autonomous regions, and municipalities under the direct administration of the central government, and cities specifically designated in the state plan or sub-provincial cities (hereinafter referred to as local governments), as well as Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, to renamed their 39 provincial RTVUs as open universities in a unified way and to standardise the names of their branches in prefectural cities, districts, and counties. The results should be submitted to the Ministry of Education before the end of December 2020. The OUC should support the 39 renamed local open universities in becoming OUC regional centres (branch campuses or branches) and integrate  into the OUC’s operation system. After the transformation of the 39 provincial RTVUs into local open universities, they keep their relationship as universities subordinate to the local governments and remain in their original management systems. Their authorisation to give degree and non-degree education will also remain unchanged. With the OUC’s continuing education dominating their work, they will offer majors and courses with regional characteristics that can meet local needs, serve local economic and social development, and be oriented towards vocations and skills through joint construction and shared responsibilities.

(XI) Clarify the management system of local open universities.

The transformed RTVUs should be operated at different levels by states, provinces (autonomous region, municipality), cities (at prefectural level, prefecture, league), and counties (district, city at county level, and banner). Local open universities, as universities subordinate to the local governments, are under the leadership of the people’s governments and the administration of the education authorities at the same level. They are also under the guidance and management of the OUC in educational affairs. They undertake the responsibility to serve local lifelong learning for all, to promote the construction of the local open education system, and to explore the integrated development of higher education, vocational education, and continuing education. In the process of integrating and optimising education resources, local education authorities should ensure that the OUC’s primary-level education operators are able to perform their corresponding operation and service functions. According to relevant national regulations, the development conditions of the education undertakings of local open universities will be measured by following the principle of “local statistics.”

(XIII) Improve the OUC’s quality guarantee system.

The OUC should persevere in the fundamental task of fostering virtue through education, and persist in educating people with Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era. The OUC should strengthen the construction of ideological and political theory courses and dig into the ideological and political educational resources contained in all specialised courses of various disciplines. In this way, the OUC can form a course-based education system in which all courses develop in the same direction with ideological and political courses, creating a synergistic effect. The OUC should adhere to making learners the centre of its operations and continue to improve the effectiveness of learners’ online learning experiences using modern information technology. The OUC should accelerate the construction of online learning communities, convenient and advanced offline study centres, and the internet-based hardware and software environment of intelligent learning management (service) systems and test evaluation systems which favour autonomous and collaborative learning.

The OUC should formulate a quality standard system based on “tolerant admission and strict exit requirements” to strictly control the standards of teachers, majors, courses, teaching, and graduation and to improve the institutional systems of standardised management in running the school inside the system. The OUC should be active in developing unique disciplines, improving research capacity, optimising major construction, deepening course reform, and strengthening practical training and operation. The OUC should enhance the development of teaching teams with “dual qualifications,” innovate multiple teaching models, intensify learning process management, reform test evaluation methods, and improve learning support. The construction of the credit bank should be accelerated in order to clarify the relationship with the provincial credit banks, establish a credit accreditation system and criteria, carry out pilot credit transfer, and achieve an organic connection between the credits obtained from degree and non-degree education. The OUC should promote the deep integration of information technology with education and teaching to comprehensively improve the quality of education and teaching in an effort to nurture a new generation of capable young people who have a comprehensive moral, intellectual, physical, and aesthetic grounding with a hard-working spirit and are well-prepared to join the socialist cause.

(XIV) Strengthen quality, supervision, and evaluation in open education operation.

The OUC should give play to the fundamental role of standards and monitoring in improving the quality of open education. Based on the reality of open education and vocational standards, the OUC should formulate unified national quality standards for open education and construction standards for first-class disciplines and majors of open education to do away with paper-centric, diploma-centric, and rank-centric educational evaluation guidance. The OUC should make open education a key part of the national supervision and evaluation system for education quality. The OUC should improve the quality monitoring systems and procedures of various levels of education administrative authorities for open universities and take the initiative to introduce third-party evaluation. The OUC should establish and improve the evaluation systems for regular teaching inspection and regular quality assessment in order to enhance the supervision of enterprises and other employers, and take multiple measures to provide open universities with policy and system guarantees to improve education and teaching quality.

(XV) Build an online education platform serving the lifelong learning for all.

The OUC should accelerate the construction of an online education platform serving lifelong learning for all and create a comprehensive learning network integrating new technologies such as 5G, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, big data, and cloud computing. The OUC should support the deep integration of information technology with education and teaching, make open education digital, intelligent, lifelong, and integrated, and improve the modernisation level of education. Schools, social training institutions at all levels and various institutions of community education and older adults education should have access to channels to share teachers, courses, facilities, and data. The OUC should make positive efforts to gather, integrate, and extend various types of high-quality courses and learning resources both in China and abroad, and make the education platforms of open universities into public service platforms for lifelong learning for all.

(XVI) Improve the policy and system guarantee of open universities.

The OUC should improve the laws and regulations of open education and promote the integrated operation of open education according to laws and regulations by issuing The OUC Charter under the regulation of the Ministry of Education. The OUC will be given greater school-running autonomy in order to ensure that it enjoys the same relevant polices and projects as other universities directly under the Ministry of Education. The OUC will be given support to strengthen cooperation with industries and enterprises and promote integration between industry and education and enterprises and colleges. It will also be supported in serving the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, Xiong'an New Area, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Hainan Free Trade Port, the integrated development of the Yangtze River delta, rural revitalisation, and other national strategies. 

A new kind of high-end think tank in the field of lifelong education, community education, education for older adults, vocational education, and online education will be built on the basis of the OUC’s established innovation bases for lifelong education. The OUC will be supported in accelerating the construction of a national credit bank (the national qualifications framework) and a credit accreditation system and criteria, and will be responsible for relevant management and operations. The mechanism for open universities, regular institutions of higher education, and vocational universities and colleges to share resources and make exchanges and cooperation will be improved.

(XVII) Improve the funding mechanism of open universities.

It must be made clear that open education is national education based on public welfare and that funding for the special construction of a lifelong education platform, national credit bank, community education, and education for older adults must be strengthened. The system of multiple funding and reasonable cost-sharing by open universities will be improved. The fee system of degree and non-degree education in open universities must be improved and the establishment of a financial subsidy system must be actively promoted so that open universities can offer vocational education, social training, community education, and education for older adults, and financial allocation channels must also be streamlined. The OUC should give impetus to the provincial people’s governments to establish a system of per student appropriation in degree education in open universities.

III. Organisation and implementation of the reform

(XVIII) Improve organisational leadership.

The Ministry of Education will establish the Leading Group for the Reform of the Open University of China. The leading group will be headed by leaders of the Ministry and consist of members taken from the relevant departments and bureaus of the Ministry and the OUC to coordinate all reform tasks, to call meetings for coordinated solutions to related problems at regular intervals, and to supervise and inspect the advancement of related tasks. Educational administrative authorities at all levels will establish corresponding leadership systems and work mechanisms, improve policy guarantee measures, include the construction of open universities in development plans, and strengthen support in terms of organization, policy, teachers, and funding. 

(XIX) Implement the division of tasks.

The relevant departments of the Ministry of Education and the OUC are responsible for reform tasks within their respective duties. It is imperative that all parties strengthen communication in line with their functions and division of work to further coordinate implementation, highlight reform measures, and advance all reform tasks. It is imperative that all parties successfully match and connect policies to accelerate the release of specific measures and the launch of special pilots, and to revise and put an end to relevant systems where necessary. New systems are to be issued, if necessary, to create policy synergy for the reform.

(XX) Strengthen publicity and guidance.

It is imperative that the significance of the reform is widely promoted in order to ensure positive interpretation of the policies, to strengthen the guidance of public opinions, to pay timely attention to teacher-student behaviours, and to respond positively to social issues. Furthermore, it is imperative to mobilise the enthusiasm of all parties, to build social consensus, to propagate and extend typical experience, and to improve the brand image of open education. The OUC should work hard to create a good environment for the reform to ensure its steady and successful advancement.