A Research Note on Recent Developments with Tibetan-Medium Tertiary Student Intakes and Degree Programs

  • Adrian Zenz Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation
Keywords: Qinghai Tibetan education, higher education, Amdo, China, minority education


Despite an increasingly illiberal ethnic policy environment, and contrary to popular perceptions of the assimilatory nature of Tibetan education in China, Tibetan higher education in this nation has grown at an astonishing rate during the past two decades. Its growth has outpaced that of regular (Chinese-medium) tertiary education. Simultaneously, an important diversification has taken place as the number of different degrees taught in the Tibetan language has likewise multiplied. In order to investigate this essentially unresearched phenomenon, this article analyses a rarely or perhaps never systematically explored data source: Chinese tertiary student intake allocation documents. The findings reveal major discrepancies between different regions. The politically most sensitive region, the Tibetan Autonomous Region, features by far the lowest Tibetan-medium tertiary intake allocations when measured per capita, as well as the lowest number of related degrees offered. But even in regions where Tibetan higher education intakes and degrees have expanded rapidly, these offerings continue to be dominated by the traditional subject of Tibetan language. Despite overall positive developments, Tibetan higher education enrolment remains a risky undertaking due to narrow employment prospects and wider assimilatory trends.