Educational Disengagement: Undermining Academic Quality at a Chinese University

Michael Agelasto

Educational Disengagement

Educational Disengagement (ISBN 962 86141 2 6) is the most comprehensive study written to date about education at a Chinese university, or for that matter any university. Through considerably rich detail, it portrays the life and times of Shenzhen University (SZU), an institution built in the first years of China's economic reforms under Deng Xiaoping. The study is the culmination of ten years of participant-observation research and relies on the analysis of hundreds of internal documents. Along with the author's companion study, University in Turmoil, it provides insight into the university's pedagogy and knowledge structure and the foreign influences that have shaped the institution.

Each of the book's chapters is preceded by an ethnographic story, written in the point of view of the informant. Stories include those of students annoyed at the quality of education they received and teachers who themselves have disengaged from the educational process. Most teachers at SZU over the school's first decade and a half have lost their enthusiasm for academic life. Many became involved in various types of money-making activities and paid only sufficient attention to their teaching and research to retain their faculty positions. Others left the university altogether; teacher turnover exceeded 30%, many leaving for overseas study and emigration. Those who remained stopped undertaking scholarly research, which fell dramatically after it had peaked in 1989.

Michael Agelasto, until his retirement, was an independent scholar specializing in Chinese education and culture. His dissertation explored the use of social relationships (guanxi) in job procurement by Shenzhen University graduates. He was co-editor of the 1998 compilation Higher Education in Post-Mao China and the author of University in Turmoil: The Political Economy of Shenzhen University.

Educational Disengagement: Undermining Academic Quality at a Chinese University
Contents & Preface
I. A University in Perspective
II. Students
III. Teachers and Staff
IV. Knowledge Structure
V. Pedagogy
VI. Foreign Things
VII. Output
VIII. Conclusion: Misadventure in Education

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