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China survey: foreign study boosts social status

Improving social status is the number one motivator for Chinese students to study abroad, a survey by China Daily has found. The survey also revealed widespread concern about ‘diploma mills’ overseas and a desire for more government direction on which foreign institutions are not legitimate.

The survey of more than 1,500 Chinese students and parents found social status and employment opportunities drive interest in foreign study. Photo: The PIE News

46% of respondents said the government should crack down on unscrupulous education agents

Of the 1,621 people surveyed, 61% said they wanted to obtain a diploma from a foreign school to boost their social standing, while 47% said they wanted to study abroad because they thought it would improve their employability after graduation.

Interestingly, fewer students said their primary motive was teaching quality, with 43% saying they wanted to study abroad to receive a better education than they would at home.

Of the 1,621 people surveyed, 61% said they wanted to obtain a diploma from a foreign school to boost their social standing

Other reasons students gave for wanting to study abroad included broadening their horizons (39%), seeking independence from parents (29%) and avoiding the pressure of a Chinese education.

In addition, almost a quarter said they had no clear goal when considering overseas study.

The survey also highlighted that Chinese students are wary of institutions offering bogus qualifications, with around two thirds saying they are concerned about the existence of so-called ‘diploma mills’ overseas.

It showed an appetite for greater government oversight of overseas education providers, with 60% saying they would welcome a regularly updated ‘blacklist’ of foreign diploma mills and 38% a list of recognised institutions.

Currently, the government publishes a “whitelist” of some 10,000 authorised foreign education providers to help guide students and their parents.

Meanwhile an additional 46% of respondents said the government should crack down on unscrupulous education agents.

Shuai Yang, senior director at the Beijing Overseas Student Services Association, China’s largest agency member organisation, echoed these concerns, adding “we too hope a government crackdown is in order”.

Speaking with The PIE News, he warned: “If students receive a degree from a disingenuous institution then their academic transcripts will not be approved by BOSSA or the Ministry of Education.”

He added that “the MoE will reject any application containing an unaffiliated institution upon academic background checking,” he added.

“If students receive a degree from a disingenuous institution then their academic transcripts will not be approved by the Ministry of Education”

Survey respondents also called on the Ministry to provide more information about the qualifications offered by foreign universities

More than half of the survey’s respondents said it is difficult for students and parents to find reliable information about these qualifications, and almost a quarter felt that the Chinese government has failed to provide adequate information to warn them about disreputable foreign institutions.

Survey respondents cited low entry thresholds (64%), selling qualifications for money (61%) and diplomas not being publicly recognised (49%) as indications that institutions were incompetent.

However, more than a third said they are unable to tell whether a university is a ‘diploma mill’ or not.

Students were also wary of education institutions that had names similar to world-renowned universities or that had insufficient or unqualified teachers.

As many students lack the resources to visit the sites of overseas institutions before enrolling, Yang advised that online research and engagement can help students to better determine the legitimacy of an institution.

“Nowadays buzz travels fast particularly because of social media (WeChat)’s widespead reach and frequency,” he said. “A ‘bogus’ college brand name should be exposed quite rapidly.”

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