Department Chair

Andrew D. Nicholls, Ph.D., Professor of History

Date of Award


Access Control

Open Access

Degree Name

History, M.A.


History and Social Studies Education Department


Michael Lazich, Ph.D. , Associate Professor of History

Department Home page

First Reader

York Norman, Ph.D. , Associate Professor of History


This thesis will explore the progressive development of Chinese higher education from the time of the Opium Wars in the mid-nineteenth century through the Republican Era (1928-1949). This study will argue that the development of China’s modern higher education system can trace its roots back to China’s humiliating defeat during the Opium Wars and the country's subsequent efforts to reform itself in the final years of the Qing dynasty and the early decades of the twentieth century.

This thesis explores how the May Fourth Movement of the early twentieth century was not a single movement but rather a phenomenon that gave rise to many different ideologies and methods on how to reform Chinese society and its system of education. Many Chinese intellectuals committed themselves to the principles of "Mr. Science and Mr. Democracy" as the twin pillars that would guide the nation to prosperity and modernity in the twentieth century. This thesis will explain how the May Fourth Movement embodied a dynamic shift from old Confucian ideals and ethics, which were replaced by new Western ideas reflected in the modern educational philosophies of Western universities and other institutions of higher learning. Once the Chinese saw the potential benefits of modern educational institutions, they were more inclined to cultivate Western learning and move toward a modernized Western educational model. Western-inspired Chinese reformers promoted academic freedom and independent research by ending the Confucian examination system and thereby changing the landscape of the Chinese higher education system.