Student governments in Chinese higher education: reflection on college students’ and student cadres’ political trust

Wei Huang, Panpan Yao, Fan Li*, Xiaowei Liao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

This paper documents the structure and operations of student governments in contemporary Chinese higher education and their effect on college students’ political trust and party membership. We first investigate the structure and power distribution within student governments in Chinese universities, specifically focusing on the autonomy of student governments and the degree to which they represent students. Second, using a large sample of college students, we examine how participating in student government affects their political trust and party membership. Our results show that student government in Chinese higher education possesses a complex, hierarchical matrix structure with two main parallel systems—the student union and the Chinese Communist Party system. We found that power distribution within student governments is rather uneven, and student organisations that are affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party have an unequal share of power. In addition, we found that students’ cadre experience is highly appreciated in student cadre elections, and being a student cadre significantly affects their political trust and party membership during college.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)387-409
JournalHigher Education
Volume82
Issue number2
Early online date22 May 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • China
  • Higher education governance
  • Political trust
  • Student cadres
  • Student government

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