More Chinese students want a US education, but fewer stay for a job

This article points to some of the weaknesses on display in keeping Chinese students in the US upon completion of their studies… This phenomena is noting new… If it were not for these students, US universities would be “empty…” Let’s face it, most US students either cannot afford the high cost of education or are unaware that a college or university education is available to them… Yes, the quality of Chinese students studying at US universities has improved over the years… No longer are US universities accepting Chinese students simply to fill a “quota” or to boost their international programs with mediocre students from China… Chinese students forgoing the “gao kao” know that they will never study in China… They have chosen the US for their college education… Yet, upon completion of a BA or MA, they return home…

Can the US afford to let them go..? What can we do to keep our “investment” here, the place where their new acquired knowledge and experience can be best put to use..?

-Andreas Kristinus, EduGate


At the peak of the Cultural Revolution, it would have been impossible to envision a mass exodus of Chinese-educated youth to universities in the United States, where capitalism reigned supreme.

Fast forward to today, and many Chinese students skip local university entrance exams and apply to American colleges, which leave no stone unturned in recruiting them. The factors behind the change have as much to do with shifts in financial power as with the emphasis on diversity touted by the universities.

In 2007, 140,000 students from China went abroad for higher education. In 2012, about 400,000 studied abroad, 95 per cent of whom were self-sponsored, according to figures from the Chinese Ministry of Education. Nearly half decided to go to the US; Australia and the UK are the second and third most popular destinations respectively.

The growth in Chinese students pursuing studies in the US has been exponential during the past decade: China sent 60,000 students to the US in 2000, almost all graduate students sponsored by the government; in 2012, 194,000 Chinese students went to the US, with most of the growth coming from self-funded undergraduate students.

Overall, China started to lead all nations in sending students to US universities in 2008. Today, it sends five times more students to US institutions than the second-largest source, according to US State Department statistics.

Chinese students are choosing the US over other developed countries because of familiarity with US brands. “The main reason the US is more popular is simply because there is a greater choice of recognised brands … and many more universities in total,” says William Vanbergen, who runs a chain of admissions consulting offices and international schools in China. “Australia is only considered by people with less disposable income or those aiming for immigration,” he adds, alluding to Australia’s open immigration policies.

Chinese students also prefer the US because the universities offer more academic choices. In the UK, students are generally expected to choose a major at enrolment and stay focused on it during the course of the programme. In the US, on the other hand, most allow students to pick a major at the end of the first or second year.

For their part, US universities are working hard to maximise their share of paying Chinese students. Recruiters understand that despite the recent growth, the number is a fraction of the 10 million students who take the entrance exam for Chinese universities every year. They also understand that an ever-increasing proportion of Chinese families have a higher purchasing power.

The need to penetrate the Chinese student market has been further exacerbated by the financial crisis and budget cuts at home. Some of the largest increases in foreign students are seen at public universities with severe funding cuts by state legislatures.

Public universities are particularly eager in welcoming foreign students, who lend international cachet and can also be charged higher out-of-state tuition. Like out-of-state US residents, international students pay twice as much as in-state residents.

Non-resident domestic students could fill these seats too, though universities do not see why they should be given preference. As Michael K. Young, president of the University of Washington, told The New York Times: “Is there any advantage to our taking a kid from California versus a kid from China? You’d have to convince me, because the world isn’t divided the way it used to be.”

Instead, foreign students are seen as assets who can help prepare local students for a highly connected world.

The US attracts huge numbers of foreign students, but with stringent caps on work visas, does not take advantage of these trained individuals in the workplace. So perhaps it works best for all that the latest cohort of Chinese students no longer yearns to work in the US.

Having immersed themselves in English language and American culture, the students take advantage of increasing opportunities at home. For decades, the rate of return to China remained low as students with advanced degrees did not see opportunities for research at home. Last year, more than 272,000 Chinese returned after completing their education abroad, 86,700 more than in 2011; a 46 per cent increase, according to the Ministry of Education.

Collectively, these students hold the key to transforming China. “This is where the action is,” Vanbergen concluded. “There is a huge shortage of bilingual, bicultural talent required to take China into the next stage of development from an export-based to a domestic consumption-based economy. Students with these backgrounds are ideally positioned to fill this demand.”

Hassan Siddiq studied grand strategy at Yale College and is the founder of, a peer-to-peer community focused on writing better. Reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal Online.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as More Chinese students want a US education, but fewer stay for a job

Schools flush out cheating Chinese students


At EduGate, we sit down with our applicants to make sure they are who they say they are. In addition, we visit them at their university after they have gotten accepted to ensure they are on track academically. Anything less, and we would not be doing our job right.

Overseas education authorities are tightening up on the review process for high school and university applicants coming from China, after concerns have been voiced over Chinese students cheating on their submissions. 

“Like many other schools, one of our main jobs now is to examine the credibility of the materials submitted by students,” Elton Wen, China manager for State University of New York (SUNY), said at the China Educational Expo 2013 in Beijing last week, which was attended by 80 US high schools and universities looking to promote their schools to Chinese students and parents.

Chinese students cheating on their applications to study at US schools has become a bigger issue in recent years, according to Tom Melcher, former chairman of Zinch China, an education consultancy that helps Chinese students study abroad. 

Since 2011, Melcher has exposed Chinese students getting around overseas schools’ high requirements by faking their academic transcripts, hiring ghostwriters for their essays and cheating on their Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exams, which Chinese students are required to take if they want to study in an English-speaking country.

Sneaky methods  

According to Wen, Chinese students often try to cheat the system by modifying their transcripts, sometimes even with the help of their high schools.

“When we get an application from a student with extremely high grades, we have to check their academic backgrounds carefully, and sometimes the student is asked to prove himself or herself by sitting through an interview or making a personal statement,” Wen told the Global Times.

But Wen said that the purpose of such scrutiny is not to prevent Chinese students from studying at reputable schools abroad, but to help them make rational choices. 

Those who cheat to get into universities, but are not caught until after enrollment, are in most cases forced to transfer programs or schools, or even drop out altogether without the chance to conclude their studies, he said. 

TOEFL exam proctors, too, have seen added creativity from cheating Chinese students recently. Some examinees have gone through serious lengths to get higher scores, even hiring qualified lookalikes to sit their exams for them. 

At Kansas State University for example, some Chinese students who have shown up for class in recent years have not matched the security photos taken of them when they supposedly took their TOEFL exams months earlier, according to Melcher.

Risky business

Students who are caught cheating on their TOEFL tests are barred from retaking the exam until passing a three, six or 12-month period, depending on the severity of their case. 

But despite the severe penalties, Chinese students desperate to get into a prestigious school abroad are still willing to take the risk, said a consultant surnamed Wu, who runs a website that helps Chinese students prepare for TOEFL exams.

He admitted to the Global Times that fierce competition and increasing pressure are driving more Chinese students to cheat, but said that at the heart of the problem is a greater systemic issue in China.

“China’s credit system is not well-built; the cost of cheating is low, but the potential reward is enormous,” said Wu.

“A bit of cheating can totally change a student’s life, and even if they’re punished, the penalty often has little influence on their record or future when they return to China.”

Global Times | 2013-11-12 20:13:01 
By Global Times

In the end, the Chinese education market is too large an opportunity to loose, over what, only our values..?

US universities target foreign markets. Can core values survive?

The dismissal of an outspoken academic at China’s top university has sparked renewed debate over the degree to which US universities abroad can maintain their core values.

By , Staff Writer / November 10, 2013

Freshmen at New York University Shanghai registered at the reception desk as they moved into the NYU campus in Shanghai, China, in August 2013.



When outspoken economics professor Xia Yeliang was dismissed by Peking University (PKU) last month, 136 faculty members at Wellesley College, an elite all-women’s school outside Boston, took it personally.

They had reason to believe Professor Xia had been fired for his political opinions. And since Wellesley had recently signed a partnership with PKU, the latest in a flood of US universities to set up bridgeheads in China, they figured that made Xia a colleague of theirs.

Xia’s dismissal, they wrote in an open letter to PKU’s president, was “such a fundamental violation of academic freedom” that they “would find it very difficult to engage in scholarly exchanges with Peking University.”

They found themselves almost alone.

Nearly 50 US universities have partnerships of one sort or another with Beida, as China’s premier seat of learning is known. Aside from Wellesley staff, only the University of Virginia has said anything at all in public about Xia’s dismissal.

“There is a risk of American universities selling their souls,” charges Harry Lewis, a former dean of Harvard College, as they rush to cash in on the opportunities they see in China’s education market and elsewhere in the world, such as the Persian Gulf.

“I don’t think this [case] will lead any US universities to reconsider their terms of engagement with Chinese universities because it is primarily financially driven,” adds the director of one US university’s China program who asked not to be identified. “Chinese students want to go to American universities, and they are willing to pay.”

Some universities abstained from comment on Xia’s dismissal because the circumstances of the case are disputed (see accompanying article). And PKU insisted in a statement that it would “not give up its tradition of advocating academic freedom.”

But the incident has raised troubling questions about US universities’ deepening involvement with foreign counterparts that do not hew to Western academic standards and operate in countries where open expression of critical thinking – essential to a liberal education – is limited, if not banned. In China, universities are all run by the governing Communist Party according to its own rules. In the Gulf, they must tiptoe around the sensitivities of feudal royal families.

“What does it mean for us to rent our reputation abroad?” asks Susan Reverby, a history professor at Wellesley and a leading signatory of the protest letter to PKU. “At what point does one side go over a line that the partner organization does not think should be crossed?”

Expanding partnerships

In recent years, Western universities have pushed into the Gulf region and into China, setting up programs ranging from student exchanges to full-fledged campuses.

China is the fastest-growing destination for international branch campuses, according to a 2012 report by The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education, a Britain-based research organization. Between 2009 and 2011 the number of international campuses in China nearly doubled, from 10 to 18.

Notably, New York University (NYU) opened a branch in Shanghai, China, this fall, following up on its Abu Dhabi campus in the United Arab Emirates, which has been operating since 2010. Duke University is building a campus in Kunshan, 40 miles west of Shanghai.

All these projects are being paid for largely by local governments. NYU’s Gulf operation is being fully bankrolled by the Abu Dhabi government from its oil revenues. In China, the Shanghai city government is paying two-thirds of Chinese students’ $45,000-a-year tuition fees at NYU’s campus, and the Pudong district government is giving NYU the building that will house the university, though it is still unfinished.

The government of Kunshan is investing $260 million to build Duke’s campus, leaving the US university to pay an estimated $37 million over the first six years of operations. NYU and Duke administrators have pledged that academic freedoms will be protected within the walls of their campuses. Even in Chinese universities, local and foreign professors here point out, they have greater latitude to make comments critical of the authorities than they would outside the classroom.

But when they operate in China, critics say, US universities are working in a one-party state that brooks no opposition, and where Chinese staff know they must watch their words.

That inevitably affects teaching programs. At the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, where Johns Hopkins University has jointly organized a program for Chinese and foreign students since 1986, “American faculty were never restricted in any way,” says Elizabeth Knup, a former American codirector of the center. “But it is hard to know what restrictions Chinese faculty put on themselves.”

Such questions and compromises come with the territory when you operate in China, says Ms. Knup. “It’s a big question for everyone working here,” she says. “Where do we stand on these principles? Because there are certain practices in China that are different.”

For the American Association of Universities, academic freedom “has to be one critical characteristic of a university,” says the association’s vice president, John Vaughn. But he says he would understand if American universities investing in new foreign markets did not always uphold such characteristics.

“Each institution has to make its own judgment about the balance of necessary principles and accommodation to different circumstances based on their own objectives,” he argues. “Clearly money is a critical element,” Mr. Vaughn acknowledges, even if it “is not a principal motivation.”

Exchange programs are obviously good for students who get a chance to broaden their minds. “Expanding the US educational system in China has its advantages,” says Joan Kaufman, who runs the Columbia Global Centers in Beijing. “Part of its attraction is a belief that a US education leads to more independent thinking,” which both appeals to students here and holds out the prospect of a new generation of graduates readier to challenge the status quo.

Universities ‘help everyone to grow’

And some say that US involvement is good for Chinese universities, too.

Many of them are trying to become more meritocratic and less politically servile, says Daniel Bell, who teaches philosophy at Tsinghua University in Beijing. “They are trying to learn from universities outside,” he suggests. “The best way to help them is to engage with them in a prolonged and systematic way.”

And “based on what I have seen,” he argues, “there is no evidence of any clampdown on academic freedom so systematic that it justifies pulling away from China.”

The University of Virginia, which runs a joint research center with PKU, said it was “disappointed” by Xia’s dismissal, calling it “unfortunate,” but is not contemplating any action.

“The engagement between Western higher education and universities in China contributes to an intellectual discourse that helps everyone involved to grow,” it said in an October statement.

Assertive China

Xia himself is ambivalent about the value of US partnerships with Chinese universities. But he is worried that an increasingly assertive China feels it calls the shots in such relationships.

“Fifteen years ago, PKU leaders thought they should listen to the West,” he says. “But today so many famous universities want to cooperate with PKU … [that] they think they can set the rules.”

It would help, he says, if major US universities “reminded PKU that there are some basic values that American universities cannot compromise, so that when PKU does cooperate they should understand that.” How easy that would be in practice is unclear.

“We cannot tell a Chinese university what to do, but we can tell China that we will not stay in an agreement if they cross a line,” says Wellesley’s Professor Reverby.

The trouble, argues Professor Lewis at Harvard, is that “you can write such an agreement, but could you get the Chinese government to adhere to it? I doubt it.

“Universities have to make money … and it is essential that they increase their international range,” Lewis says. “But there are ways to do that other than by pretending that you can reproduce the conditions under which American students and teachers have freedom.”

“There are no easy answers,” Reverby acknowledges. But Xia’s dismissal means “we just can’t keep going as if nothing had happened.”