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Investors circle as new law permits private Chinese universities

来源:FT中文网    2017-11-14 07:12

        A new law which took effect in September is generating a wave of investor interest in China’s higher education sector. The law, enacted by China’s Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress last November, lets universities and high-schools establish themselves as for-profits for the first time. All providers operating in the K-9 space must continue to remain non-profit. This is the last major sector of China’s economy to be commercialised, following close on the heels of the health sector overhaul.        今年9月生效的一部新法律使得投资者对中国高等教育领域兴趣大增。这部由中国全国人大常委会去年11月批准的法律首次允许大学和高中成为营利性实体。9年义务教育的所有提供方依然必须是非营利机构。这是继医疗改革之后,中国经济最后一个即将商业化的重大领域。
        Like every other country in the world, China is struggling to close skills gaps in the labor market and to equip youth with the knowledge they need to thrive in a global economy. Demand for higher education outstrips supply. China’s public universities are already heavily-subsidised and the government has limited room to grow public spending. The new law is aimed at attracting private investment neededto expand access to relevant skills and training. With their close links to industry, many private universities are more responsive to labor market evolutions and have skills-based curriculums.        与世界上其他国家一样,中国正在竭力缩小劳动力市场的技能差距,让年轻人掌握在一个全球经济体就业所需的知识。高等教育需求超出了供应。中国公立大学已经获得大量补贴,而政府加大公共支出的空间有限。新法旨在吸引私人投资,以扩大获得相关技能和培训的途径。由于与行业联系紧密,许多私立大学对劳动力市场的演变反应更为灵敏,并实行基于技能的教学大纲。
        The opportunity for growth is vast. Today, China’s private tertiary education industry is small, underinvested, and fragmented. Overall higher education spending is about $149bn, about $135bn of which is financed by the public purse, and the remainder from the private sector. Some 29m Chinese are enrolled in some form of higher education, of which only about 6.3m are enrolled in private universities, a number expected to hit 8m by 2021, according to a Frost and Sullivan report.        增长机遇是巨大的。如今,中国私立高等教育行业规模小、投资不足而且分散。总体高等教育支出大约为1490亿美元,其中大约1350亿美元是由公共财政支付的,剩下的来自私人领域。Frost & Sullivan的一份报告显示,大约2900万中国人正在接受某种形式的高等教育,其中只有大约630万人在私立大学上学,预计到2021年该数据将达到800万人。
        Though small, private higher education is growing fast — 8.2 per cent a year — compared with 6.5 per cent annual growth in the public sector, according to government statistics. With 40 per cent of China’s high-school graduates going onto university (either public or private), its tertiary enrolment ratio exceeds the global average of 37 per cent, UNESCO figures show. It outperforms India, at 27 per cent, but lags behind many middle-income countries in other world regions, such as in Latin America (Colombia stands at 47 per cent).        尽管规模小,但私立高等教育发展很快,每年增长8.2%,而政府统计数据显示,公立高等教育每年增长6.5%。由于中国40%的高中毕业生会进入大学(无论公立还是私立),联合国教科文组织(UNESCO)数据显示,其高等教育入学率超过全球37%的平均水平。它超过印度27%的水平,但落后于拉美等其他地区的许多中等收入国家(哥伦比亚的高等教育入学率是47%)。
        Allowing private universities to operate as for-profits will make it easier for them to raise finance from capital markets and expand, including through M&A activities. Historically these institutions had to be registered as non-profits, limiting avenues for both debt and equity funding. There have already been several successful Initial Public Offerings (IPO) over the past six months.        允许私立大学作为营利性实体经营,将让它们更容易从资本市场筹资,并进行扩张(包括通过并购活动)。过去这些机构不得不注册为非营利性机构,这限制了债务和股权融资途径。过去6个月里已经有多家机构成功进行了首次公开发行(IPO)。
        In March Minsheng Education, one of the top ten private universities for enrolments, with more than 30,000 students, held an IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. IFC became a cornerstone investor in Minsheng, taking a $25m equity stake. Minsheng is based in Chongqing, a city of 30m people. Because of this supportive policy change, the highly fragmented private education sector has begun consolidation, facilitated by mergers and acquisitions among the large education groups.        今年3月,民生教育(Minsheng Education)在香港交易所(HKEx)上市——按入学总人数计算,民生教育是中国十大民办大学之一,拥有逾3万名学生。国际金融公司(IFC)成为民生教育的基石投资者,获得2500万美元的股权。民生教育总部位于拥有3000万人口的重庆。由于这种支持性政策改变,极为分散的民办教育领域开始整合——通过大型教育集团之间的并购。
        The new law gives for-profit higher education providers full autonomy in setting tuition fees. Currently, the government has a say over fees. It also strengthens the ownership rights of for-profit providers by granting them full freedom to dispose of their assets should their schools cease operating, a freedom they do not presently enjoy. Further, it will allow the for-profit institutions to declare dividends legally.        新的法律在设定学费方面赋予营利性高等教育提供商充分自主权。就目前而言,中国政府对学费有话语权。新法还增强了营利性机构的所有者权利,赋予它们在学校停止运营后处置资产的充分自由——目前它们不享有这种自由。此外,它还允许这些营利性机构依法派发股息。
        Most of the investors availing themselves of the opportunities provided by the new law are Chinese. Their focus tends to be on developing bachelor degree programs. Foreign investors operating in this space are fewer and they tend to partner with the leading public universities in China, such as US-based Duke University setting up a campus in Shanghai in partnership with Wuhan University.        利用新法所提供机遇的投资者大多是中国人。他们的聚焦点往往是发展学士学位课程。在这一领域运营的外国投资者比较少,他们往往与中国的领先公立大学合作,比如美国杜克大学(Duke University)与武汉大学(Wuhan University)合作在上海设立一个校园。
        Expanding private education will help the millions of young Chinese who find it hard to get into the public universities. While the public universities generally provide high quality andrelatively affordable education, they tend to admit only top-performing students. Private universities, by contrast, largely focus on enhancing job skills of students with lower entrance exam scores, many of whom come from lower to middle income families. Thus, for students who are not quite at the top of their class, private universities are great avenues for pursuing their ambitions for a degree that puts them in a stronger position to compete for higher-paying jobs.        扩大民营教育将会帮助难以进入中国公立大学的数以百万计的年轻人。尽管公立大学通常教学水平高,而且费用相对可承受,但它们往往只招收成绩优秀的学生。相比之下,民办大学主要致力于增强学生的就业技能,入学分数线较低,许多学生来自中低收入家庭。因此,对那些学习成绩不是很优秀的学生来说,民办大学是他们实现学位抱负的极好平台,让他们在竞争较高薪资职位时处于更为有利的地位。
        The new law aims tohelp alleviateyouth unemployment in China, as graduates from private universities tend to get jobs quickly. A few top ranking private universities, such as Xi’an EurAsia University, Minsheng Education and Shandong Yingcai University, have seen more than 90 per cent of their students find jobs within a couple of months of graduating.        中国出台新法的目的是帮助缓解年轻人的失业状况,因为民办大学的毕业生往往很快就能找到工作。一些顶尖的民办大学,比如西安欧亚大学(EurAsia University)、民生教育和山东英才学院(Shandong Yingcai University),逾90%的学生在毕业后两个月内就找到了工作。
        Top-tier private universities’ employability rate is high, because they specialize in imparting in-demand skills such as nursing and geriatric care, early childhood education, software engineers, construction technicians and high-end manufacturing jobs, as well as some specialized programs, such as railway operations. Employability is an important consideration for us at IFC, as we decide where to invest for the greatest development impact. Strong regulatory oversight and quality standards are equally important as the for-profit education industry develops further in China.        一流民办大学的就业率很高,因为它们专业教授热门技能,比如护理和老年医学照顾、早教、软件工程师、建筑施工技术人员和高端制造业岗位,以及一些专门课程,比如铁路运营。对国际金融公司来说,就业能力是一个重要考量,因为我们要决定在哪里投资才能取得最大发展效果。随着营利性教育行业在中国进一步发展,强有力的监管和质量标准也很重要。
        While the law is already transforming China’s university market, a wholesale flip from non-profit to for-profit status is unlikely. Non-profits have plenty of incentives to keep their status. For example, they will continue to receive more favorable tax treatment and have access to cheaper land than for-profits. They may also continue to enjoy certain types of government subsidies.        尽管新法已经在转变中国的大学市场,但不太可能有大量机构从非营利转向营利性。非营利性机构有很多动机维持它们的地位。例如,它们将会继续享受税收优惠,土地价格也比营利性机构便宜。它们还可能继续享受某些形式的政府补贴。
        It will be fascinating to watch how China’s higher education market evolves. Will the public universities continue to attract the top-notch students or will they face stiffer competition? Will the new for-profit entities use their capital infusions to boost enrolment levels? Perhaps most important of all, will China’s higher education system become better equipped to respond to the labor market’s ever-changing needs? I am confident that it will.        观察中国高等教育市场如何演变将会很有意思。公立大学将会继续吸引优秀学生,抑或它们会面临更为激烈的竞争?新的营利性机构将会利用雄厚资本来提升入学水平吗?或许最重要的是,中国高等教育体系将会更有能力回应劳动力市场不断变化的需求吗?我相信它会的。
        Jiadi Yu is a Principal Investment Officer at the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group        本文作者是世界银行(World Bank Group)旗下国际金融公司(IFC)的首席投资官

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