Research on the Features and Content Framework of the OUC Institutional System*

YAO Wenjian, LI Yanzhong

【Abstract】 The construction of an institutional system is one of the major pillars of the overall construction of the Open University of China (OUC). It is necessary to not only borrow from the experiences of modern university systems in China and abroad, but also to absorb appropriate content from the radio and TV university (RTVU) system and push forward construction based on the features of the OUC system. The OUC system differs from the RTVU system’s bureaucratic management in that it is “hetero-organizational”; it is a “dynamic self-organization” that manages and adjusts itself. As such, the construction of the OUC institutional system not only displays the standard features of a modern university system, but also its own unique set of features. It fuses features from both systems, such as integrity and coordination, long-term validity and stability, creativity and self-improvement, and richness and gradualism. When visualized in the form of a tree, the content framework should make the Charter of the Open University of China its root, the governance structure and system mechanism its trunk, teaching management and the teaching operation system its branches, and departmental responsibilities, business standards and operating procedures its leaves.

【Key Words】The  Open University of China; institutional system; construction features; content framework

Fund project: The thesis represents one of the phased achievements of the 2013 OUC special project “The OUC Research on Institutional System of Modern University System ” (Project Number: Q0082A-S).

The construction of the OUC institutional system has been a priority since the inauguration of the OUC in July 2012. In 2013, the OUC listed “system framework”, “organization system” and “digitization” as the three major pillars of its construction, and proposed that “according to the requirements of constructing a new type of university, the OUC will plan and design an institutional system, and explore a mechanism for independent operation according to the law, so as to achieve independent development and management, and establish a basic framework for the OUC system”[1]. As a new type of university developed on the basis of the RTVU system, the OUC should not only borrow from the experiences of modern university systems in China and abroad, but also absorb appropriate content from the RTVU system. Furthermore, the construction should be based on the features of the OUC system. It is therefore necessary to define and clarify the implications and features of constructing the OUC institutional system, as well as proposing a content framework.

Ⅰ. The background of the construction of the OUC institutional system

Building a modern university system is a major constituent part of China’s higher education reform; it is also one of the government’s explicit requirements for education. This requirement is clearly stated in the National Outline for Medium and Long-term Education Reform and Development (2010-2020)[2]. The construction of a modern university system is of particular significance to the OUC, which is a new type of university providing continuing education for adults and life-long learning for all. In terms of macro management, the governments across the world fix basic elements such as funding, organizational structure, staffing, the protection of rights and interests, assessment and accreditation, and quality assurance of the open universities or open education institutions in the form of law, in order to ensure and encourage open universities towards sound, orderly and sustainable development. This is true of open universities in both developed and developing countries, such as the Open University UK (OUUK) and Indira Gandhi National Open University respectively. With regards to micro management, open universities foster norms, behavior and standard by formulating a guarantee system for rules and regulations. For example, the OUUK is a global leader in terms of the systems of quality assurance, course construction, and course team, all of which help to improve its management and teaching level.

The OUC is a new type of university developed on the basis of the RTVU system. Over its 30-year history, the RTVU system has seen the formulation of a three-level management system of “overall planning, decentralized operation and management, and division of responsibilities and collaboration”, as well as various other internal management systems for teaching, management, learner support, quality assurance, and resource construction. All of these laid a good foundation for the construction of the OUC. However, following the reform of China’s education system and the integration of local education resources, the disadvantages of the RTVU system are becoming increasingly visible, in particular its “bureaucratic management” and “hetero-organization”[3]. These disadvantages are reflected in the following three aspects. The first is that the entire institutional system is not systematic or standardized enough despite its extensive coverage. A number of existing “blind spots” reveal the absence and backwardness of both high-level and fundamental systems. For example, at the national macro-management level, the only functioning policy is the Interim Provisions on RTVU Management issued by the former State Education Commission in 1988. The second aspect is that the present rules and measures are not complete enough to solve the problems that have been highlighted by the construction of the institutional system. The operating process is overly random and there is a lack of correlation or even conflict between the systems. The third and final aspect is the absence of flexible and humanized management, and weak adaptability to the changing environment.

Therefore, the construction of the OUC institutional system should establish a governance structure that conforms to the development of modern open universities; formulate systems suitable for its own teaching, management and development; promote the efficient, standardized operation of the OUC; and promote sustainable development through research and exploration.