China has put massive investments in higher education. In no field is this more evident than law. Thirty years ago China had barely 20 law programs. According to figures from the Ministry of Education (kindly requested by the Educational Exchange Office for my research), in 2007 China had:
• 36 Ph.D. and Graduate Law Programs in 1,759 different Chinese universities or colleges or schools in 2007.
• 38 Bachelor’s degree Law Programs in 2,214 different Chinese universities or colleges or schools in 2007.
• There were 28 continuing education law programs in 1,124 different Chinese universities or colleges or schools in 2007.
• Ph.D. candidates 9,575
• Graduate Students 70,736
Compare the 2,214 Chinese universities, colleges and schools that offer law (both undergraduate and graduate) with the 196 accredited US law schools. Chinese law students can major in law as an undergraduate major, continue on for a masters, or (like US law students) can now take a 3 year masters in law after majoring in another subject in undergraduate.
It is an open question what China will do with all these young graduates trained in law. Many who graduate with an undergraduate degree in law will use that general background for business or other positions. The students face tremendous uncertainty about where they will fit in China’s emerging legal system. Exploring this question will likely be a research focus for me in the years to come.