University system and campus life: Prerequisites for student movements in contemporary China

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Richard G. Braungart


History, Sociology, Higher education, Chinese universities

Subject Categories



This doctoral dissertation is concerned with the relationship between the university system and campus life in China and how this may be linked to student movements. It is suggested that the university is the ideal environment that helps produce student unrest. Throughout this dissertation, it is argued that student movement activities--including their political intentions, the strategies of demonstrations and other activities--are closely related to students' life experiences. Daily experiences are rooted in their university routines. Rather than student movements per se, this dissertation examines the normative aspects of campus life--from student recruitment to the policy of job-allocation, from university administration to campus regulations, and from student curricular activities to campus organizations. The theory of generational conflict is used as a conceptual tool to explore this subject. This theory suggests that student behavior can be seen through three perspectives: life-course effects, cohort effects, and period (or social conditional) effects. The university is the place where all three generational factors--life course, cohort, and period effects--are most likely to merge to produce youthful unrest. This dissertation especially analyzes the relationship between educational policies and various student cohort groups in China since 1949. Two additional theories--notably "resource mobilization" and "time-space"--are employed in this study to analyze the dynamic role of the university campus in student life. Through discussing the highly organized campus life, the dissertation concludes that the university is the "space" that contains dynamic social and political resources--i.e., young cohort groups, rich information, and emerging norms and values that aid in the mobilization of student movement.


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