MAC says Chinese degrees losing value

GRADUATION SEASON::Not only do Chinese degrees provide less access to programs abroad amid rising tensions with the West, but jobs are becoming scarce, the MAC said

By Chung Li-hua  /  Staff reporter

Mon, Feb 18, 2019 - Page 3

A bachelor’s degree from Chinese universities is no longer the great stepping-stone it once was, due to the US-China trade dispute and growing espionage concerns, the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said in response to Beijing’s annual effort to recruit Taiwanese students for its universities.

China has stepped up its efforts to attract Taiwanese degree-seekers over the past few years.

Last month, the Chinese Ministry of Education relaxed its requirements for Taiwanese high-school graduates, allowing them to apply for a Chinese university if they achieve average scores for any of the three subjects of the college entrance exam — Mandarin, mathematics and English.

The requirements previously stated that only students with a total score equal to or exceeding the average would be considered.

In response, the MAC in a document detailed the potential risks and problems associated with pursuing higher education in China.

In the section about the possibility of Taiwanese students using a Chinese bachelor’s degree to pursui a master’s degree in the US or Europe, the document quoted unnamed academics as saying that the chance of doing that has dropped significantly, given escalating tensions between the US and China over trade issues, as well as US President Donald Trump’s claim last year that Chinese students in the US might be spies.

It also quoted a former student in China as saying that due to growing restrictions that the US has imposed on certain disciplines and subjects in China, even a bachelor’s degree from a top-ranked Chinese university might not be as useful as one from a Taiwanese institution.

Another problem facing Taiwanese graduates in China is the increasing difficulty of finding a job in Beijing, where the number of college graduates hit a record 8 million last year, according to political observers.

Chinese media reported that the number of positions on popular Chinese job hunting Web site www.51job.com dropped from 2.85 million in April last year to 830,000 in September.

Even graduates from top universities under Beijing’s Project 985 might receive only three to four invitations for a written test out of 20 job applications, the reports said.

In addition, Chinese institutions’ restriction on free speech and academic freedom could also pose a problem.

CNN in November last year reported that Chinese authorities have tightened their grip on campuses, citing the arrest of a Peking University graduate who was involved in a labor rights movement.

In a memo, “the Peking University committee of China’s ruling Communist Party declared the establishment of an ‘internal control and management’ office to enforce discipline on campus, including day-to-day inspections and patrols on school grounds,” the CNN report said.

In October last year, the Chinese Communist Party appointed an official with experience at the Beijing State Security Bureau, Qiu Shuiping (邱水平), as party secretary at Peking University.

In similar development at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, its academic committee in January last year in a notice asked master students’ advisers to censor their political stances and ideologies in their dissertations and other graduation projects.

The same rule also applied to undergraduate students at the university, the notice said.