Sovereignty over education is a nation’s paramount and absolute power and can never submit to control or verification by external powers. As a fundamental legal principle, sovereignty over education is integrated into the Regulations on Sino-Foreign Jointly Operated Schools (the Regulations). Thus, understanding, applying and interpreting the Regulations cannot be divorced from the principle of educational sovereignty.
Application of Chinese Law
Articles 3 and 5 clearly state that jointly operated schools are “a part of China’s education system”, that they "must comply with Chinese Law”, and must not harm “China’s national sovereignty, security and interests.” Regardless of whether a school is classified as a “project” or an “institution”, as public institutions or university faculties, the sole application of Chinese Law by jointly-operated schools can be neither negotiated nor compromised.
The entire period of operation is covered by substantive and procedural rules
The only way foreign institutions or individuals can access the Chinese educational sector is as a Jointly Operated School. That is to say foreign institutions or individuals may not engage in this sector alone, but must partner with an established Chinese educational institution that has legal person status (Article 9). The application to relevant government bodies should be carried out by the Chinese partner institution.
The establishment, reorganization and termination of a school must follow fixed procedures and validity is subject to approval by the departments in charge of education in China. Jointly operated schools engaged in higher education and student recruitment must comply with the “Plan for Student Recruitment by Institutions of Higher Education” (Article 32). Information for applicants must be submitted to the governmental organ for registration (article 33). Teaching must comply with the rule that “the basic language of instruction must be standard mandarin using standard Chinese characters” (Article 31). If specified by administrative authorities responsible for education, jointly operated schools must offer compulsory courses on law, morality and the situation in China (Article 30).
Jointly operated schools may grant certificates for foreign academic degrees; however, these must be approved by the authorities responsible for education, and must be within preapproved limits. In addition, degrees awarded by foreign institutions must be the same as those approved for award in the foreign institution’s home country (Article 33), and not degrees specifically created for Chinese students.
The legal status and competencies of the administrative principal
The principal administrator of jointly operated schools must be a Chinese national and the competencies of this role are clearly defined by law (Article 25 and 26). In order to ensure educational sovereignty day-to-day governance, the Regulations set out two measures with Chinese characteristics: firstly, it is clearly stated that the principal administrator must be a Chinese national; secondly, the competencies of the principal administrator are clearly delimitated. Both measures are efficiency and fairness oriented: firstly, the Regulations offer the possibility of distributing powers of governance between parties according to a fixed model. This saves negotiating costs as only one candidate is principal administrator; secondly, if there is deadlock, Article 26 states that the “principal administrator” is legally obliged to take responsibility to resolve the matter. Thus strict application of the Regulations means that impasse can be avoided.
In conclusion, CESL fully adheres to the principles of the Regulations in all its operations.
The full article is available in Chinese here