Page 2 of 5Ⅱ. The Implications and features of the OUC institutional system
1. The implications of the OUC institutional system
1.1 The meaning of a modern university system
A system coordinates and maintains the authority-responsibility relationship between different groups of people, and puts forward a common norm or behavioral rule for all members to follow. Similarly, a university system represents the system that deals with the relationship between the university and the state (or society), as well as the internal relationships within the university. The focus of the construction of a university system varies according to country, time period, and school. However, a “modern university system” cannot be divided according to historical period, but rather it embodies the theory, thinking and philosophy value of the university on which it is based. Some scholars believe that “the core of a modern university system is for the university to be run independently and be managed democratically under the macro-control of laws set by the government and society. Building a modern university system means ensuring the due power and responsibility of the university as a legal and educational body”. Others believe that “the essential meaning of a modern university system lies in ensuring the cultural status of the university by coordinating and standardizing the external relations of the university organization, thus enabling the university to better perform its duties in passing on and creating culture”. To this end, a modern university system functions as a kind of institutional design for university governance. At the macro level, a modern university system has to clarify the relationship between open university and the government, and society and the market. At the micro level, it must deal with the power relationships produced by decision-making, administration and academic relations within the university.
1.2 The implications of the OUC institutional system
Conducting an active exploration of a modern university system with Chinese characteristics is not only a task for regular institutions of higher education, but also an inevitable choice for open universities in pursuing a sound development path. The OUC is a new type of institution of higher education supported by ICT. The OUC system is made up of headquarters, branches, local colleges, study centres, numerous support alliances, and industry and corporate colleges built in cooperation with alliance members. It covers urban and rural areas nationwide, as well as an internal organization system encompassing teaching, management, quality, assessment, resource sharing and learner support. The construction of the OUC institutional system should take into consideration both the features of the OUC as “a single entity” and as “a school system” alliance with a number of members. Based on this, the authors believe that the OUC institutional system refers to one that provides society with independent education, manages the university democratically, and enjoys the due rights and responsibilities of a legal entity and a school system under the macro control of government and educational authorities in line with the OUC’s educational orientation and historic mission. It shows the governance methods, system standard and code of conduct reflecting the relationship between the OUC system and governments at different levels and society, with the fundamental aim of running the OUC in an efficient and standardized way.
2. Features of the OUC institutional system
In view of all the features of the system, Deng Xiaoping, founder of the RTVU system, noted that, “the issue of an organizational system is a fundamental, overall, stable and long-term issue”. When combined with the realities of China’s university system, Professor Zhong Binglin, former president of Beijing Normal University, believes that a modern university system with Chinese characteristics should emphasize universality, modernity, efficiency, legality and diversity. “Universality” indicates that the university spirit should surpass national culture, political system, level of economic and social development, and ideology. It should have a feature of stability beyond time and space limitation. “Modernity” implies that a modern university system is always suited to the needs of the present climate, adapting to and promoting the reform of a country. “Efficiency” shows that a modern university system must be conducive to improving university management and operational efficiency. “Legality” refers to the legal management of the university by the government and the independent legal operation of the university itself. “Diversity” implies that a modern university system should accommodate a diverse range of features, which fits in with the university’s need for development and provides opportunities for creativity. Deng Xiaoping’s beliefs about the system and Zhong Binglin’s description of a modern university system with Chinese characteristics can be used to guide the construction of the OUC institutional system.
The OUC, as an independent school-running entity for adult higher education fuelled by ICT, is different from regular institutions of higher education. Since its target students are mainly people currently in employment, the curriculum setup, teaching resources, and teaching model of the programme must suit the learning characteristics of these target learners. It provides diverse teaching and learning models based on multimedia teaching (including face-to-face tutorials) that are aimed at distance learners. This makes it necessary for the OUC to establish an internal institutional system for teaching, management, quality, assessment, resource sharing, and support services. However, the OUC’s external structure is made up of headquarters, branches, local colleges, study centres, and numerous support alliances, as well as industry and corporate colleges built in cooperation with alliance members with extensive social participation. This makes it necessary to establish a management system and operational mechanism based on a balanced allocation of benefits, duties and obligations.
The features of the OUC internal management and external alliance systems show that the OUC system is different from the RTVU system’s “hetero-organizational” style of bureaucratic management. Instead it is a “dynamic self-organization” characterized by self-management and self-adjustment, and with features such as integrity, dynamic openness, cooperation, competitiveness, imbalance and variability . The authors maintain that the OUC institutional system not only has the features of a modern university system in a general sense, but also its own special features as a “dynamic self-organization” and a complex operating system. It thus demonstrates a total fusion of the features of both systems (see figure 1). The OUC system is built upon its own operating system, within which its features connect with, influence and promote each other. On one hand, the internal and external systems interact with the environment and influence the content and development trends of the institutional system. On the other hand, the institutional system also plays a dynamic role, actively changing and adjusting to adapt to any needs arising.
Figure 1 Features of the OUC Institutional System
This creates the following features of the OUC institutional system.