In order to comprehensively implement the spirit of the 18th CPC National Congress and the 3rd, 4th, 5th Plenary Sessions of 18th CPC Central Committee, implement the Outline of China’s National Plan for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020), successfully run the open university, and promote the construction of a learning-oriented society, in January 2016 the Ministry of Education (MOE) issued the MOE’s Opinions on Successfully Operating Open Universities, stressing that the OUC should cater to the new demands of economic and social development, make use of the achievements of modern information technology, and explore a school operation model for open universities with Chinese characteristics.

By 2020, an open university system with Chinese characteristics should have taken shape. By that time, modern information technology application will be more mature, high-quality education resources will be richer, learning conditions will be more advanced, the learning system will be more flexible, and the school running system will have improved. In this way the university can meet diverse learning demands, providing important support for a learning-oriented society and an important guarantee for human resource development.

The Opinions focused on 12 key tasks. First, clarify functional orientation. Open universities focus on lifelong education, striving to run a new type of higher education institution that serves national lifelong learning. Second, improve the school infrastructure, strengthen the construction of information infrastructure, and create a digital learning environment. Third, strengthen the application of information technology, realise the integration of teaching, management, and services, and improve the level of online education. Fourth, improve the school system, strengthen the construction of the study centres, and enhance the offline support ability. Fifth, build high quality courses through various channels to meet diverse learning demands. Sixth, improve the professional construction system based on economic and social development, as well as the industry grade. Seventh, innovate the learning organisation model, improve the registration learning system and self-elective course system, shift the role of tutors, strengthen learner support and services, and improve the effect of education. Eighth, strengthen the monitoring and evaluation of the teaching process and student learning effects, strengthen the quality guarantee, and ensure "tolerant entrance, strict exit". Ninth, build a credit bank and realise the accumulation and transfer of learning outcomes. Tenth, cater to the needs of teaching reform, make innovations to the construction of teaching staff, accelerate the construction of a teaching faculty team with full-time and part-time tutors who can adapt to the characteristics of open education and be good at making use of information technology in teaching. Eleventh, encourage open universities to carry out all-round cooperation with domestic and international universities, research colleges, and industry enterprises. They should form a school operating model that is closely connected with industry enterprises, with extensive social engagement and resource sharing, as well as a collection of high quality education resources. Twelfth, further implement and improve the responsibility mechanism under higher education Party leadership, govern the university according to the law, improve the governance structure, and improve their governance capability.

According to the Opinions, the local government should include open universities in the overall planning of economic construction and social development, strengthen support, and intensify the guidance and management of the construction of open universities. In addition, open universities should be given policy support in terms of teaching staff construction, online education, credit bank construction, and registration enrolment.

The OUC, Beijing Open University, Shanghai Open University, Jiangsu Open University, Open University of Guangdong, and Yunnan Open University have all been founded since 2012, positively carrying out the pilot project of "exploring an open university construction model.” Up to now, six open universities have set up 210 majors, including 49 majors for undergraduate studies and 161 majors at the junior college degree level. 3.92 million people have been enrolled, of which, 11.7 million are college students, 2.75 million are junior college students, and 3.69 million are registered students. There are currently 56 non-degree training programmes, developing 2.4 million class hours of non-degree education resources and carrying out offline training for 380,000 people.

Written by Sun Fuwan, Edited by Yan Jingzhen,