The Expansion of Higher Education and the Returns of Distance Education in China


  • Fengliang Li Tsinghua University



distance higher education, returns of education, expansion of education, China


The returns of traditional face-to-face education are widely analyzed, but there is a need for empirical studies on the returns of distance education. Further, comparative studies on returns of both traditional and distance education using high-quality data are rare. Since 1999, continuous and rapid expansions have occurred in the whole Higher Education system in China. Given this background, what are the changes in returns of both traditional face-to-face education and distance education? This study analyzes the returns of both of these formats from 2003 to 2006 using the data from the China General Social Survey Open Database (Chinese General Social Survey [CGSS], 2018), adding educational background as a dummy variable to the Mincerian income equation. The empirical results show that Distance Higher Education can significantly increase the income of learners, the returns of distance education are lower than those of traditional face-to-face education and that from 2003 to 2006, the returns of distance education decrease dramatically.

Author Biography

Fengliang Li, Tsinghua University

Dr. Li Fengliang,  associate professor, Institute of Education, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. Postcode: 100084; email: Dr. Li Fengliang, a 2015 CCSEP (CANADA-CHINA SCHOLAR EXCHANGE PROGRAMME) visiting scholar at Athabasca University, with the support of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada.



How to Cite

Li, F. (2018). The Expansion of Higher Education and the Returns of Distance Education in China. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 19(4).



Research Articles