Wednesday, 2 August 2017

CUHK Shenzhen: Alumni concerns show poor understanding of Sino-Foreign JV Universities.

An article in the Hong Kong Free Press has drawn attention to some misgivings that Chinese University of Hong Kong (hereafter CUHK) alumni have over the degree certificates being awarded to graduates of CUHK Shenzhen (hereafter CUHK Shenzhen, a Sino-Foreign Joint Venture University established by CUHK and Shenzhen University. 

A CUHK Degree Certificate

A CUHK Shenzhen Certificate (Masters)

As is stated in the HKFP article: 
The graduation certificate of the Shenzhen institution puts “Chinese University of Hong Kong” at the top, without mentioning Shenzhen. It says graduated students are of the CUHK (SZ) in the main text, and features the names and signatures of Xu Yangsheng, president of CUHK (SZ), underneath.
The certificate also includes the names and signatures of the top officials of CUHK in Sha Tin, including then-chancellor Leung Chun-ying, Vice-Chancellor Joseph Sung, and Registrar Eric Ng.
“The graduation certificate should mention ‘Shenzhen’ at the top, and state clearly that the Shenzhen University is involved with the school,” Lam told HKFP.

The criticism leveled by the CUHK alumni centers on the name of the university on the certificate issued to graduates of CUHK Shenzhen: they argue that the certificate should clearly state the institution as CUHK Shenzhen, not CUHK.  Their criticism in this regard is likely due to an understanding that CUHK Shenzhen is Mainland university which is legally independent from CUHK. 

Yet the criticism also reveals that the alumni understand neither the establishment of CUHK Shenzhen as a legally independent Mainland university, nor the role of CUHK or its provision of degrees. 

So lets clarify a little here. 

CUHK Shenzhen is a Sino-Foreign Joint Venture University established in 2014 through cooperation between CUHK (HK) and Shenzhen University (PRC).  These two “parent” universities committed resources to establish CUHK Shenzhen which is a brand new, legally independent university under the jurisdiction of the Guangdong Provincial Education Bureau. CUHK Shenzhen is not, therefore, legally part of CUHK in Hong Kong.  It is a brand new Mainland Chinese University. 

When establishing a Sino-Foreign Joint Venture university, it is most common that students recruited to UG programmes at these JVs will receive TWO degrees upon graduation: a degree from the foreign partner and a degree from the newly established JV university.  So TWO degrees upon graduation for undergraduate students recruited through the Gaokoa exam.  Except…….

CUHK Shenzhen is one of TWO exceptions to this case, the other being University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC).  For CUHK Shenzhen and UNNC they both issue only the foreign degree, from CUHK Hong Kong and University of Nottingham UK respectively.  They do not issue a second degree from the newly established JV university.  The foreign degree they issue is fully recognized in the People’s Republic of China and by approved by the Ministry of Education. 

While mainland students enroll at CUHK Shenzhen, they are enrolling on a programme where the degree certificate is issued by CUHK Hong Kong.  If this was not the case, CUHK Shenzhen would never have likely received approval as a JV.  Perhaps as a joint institute within Shenzhen University.  It would also never have been permitted to charge RMB90k+ in tuition fees for a PRC degree: this would have been capped around RMB35k-40k by the Provinicial Pricing Bureau who approve tuition fees for Chinese universities including those charged by any and all Sino-Foreign collaborations. 

That CUHK Shenzhen students will be issued with only a CUHK degree upon completion of their studies is clearly stated on the publicly available Ministry of Education licence agreement record for CUHK Shenzhen which was posted in 2014. 

CUHK Alumni, in making this rather snooty criticism of CUHK Shenzhen, have failed to understand what their alma mater has established across the border from Sha Tin.  It is essentially a franchise college of CUHK on the mainland.  CUHK Shenzhen is, legally speaking, not part of CUHK in Hong Kong.  But all students at CUHK Shenzhen are enrolled on CUHK degree programmes and CUHK can issue those degrees. In fact, CUHK Shenzhen must issue hong Kong degrees conferred by CUHK to its students as a condition of their licensing by the PRC Ministry of Education: this is exactly what CUHK Hong Kong signed up for when they agreed to establish CUHK Shenzhen in partnership with Shenzhen University.  

The concerns smack of a sneering elitism amongst the alumni, and it feels a bit like Hong Kong elites turning their noses up at Mainland “locusts” again. Moreover, rather than getting into a strop about whether or not this will diminish the worth of their own degree certificate, it would have been a much better demonstration of alumni spirit to instead congratulate their fellow alumni in Shenzhen: the Inaugural CUHK Shenzhen Graduating Class of 2017. 


Tuesday, 6 June 2017

SCMP Article: New Guidelines for Chinese Universities on International Students

The South ChinaMorning Post published an article this morning claiming that international students will be compelled to take classes in Chinese culture and language, as well as Chinese political theory for students majoring in philosophy or politics. 

The article refers to the new “School Enrolment and Training of International Student Management (学校招收和培养国学生管理法)” jointly issued by the Ministries of Education, Foreign Affairs and Public Security.  The full text is available here in Chinese.

However, the document appears to be aimed at firming up administrative practices across Chinese universities as they continue to experience growth in international student numbers. 

For example, there are stipulations concerning the strict observation of admissions standards (Article 12), with students failing to meet minimum requirements prohibited from being admitted.  International students are permitted to undertake work-study internships, but prohibited from employment or engaging in other business activities (Article 30).  International students are required to electronically register any diplomas or degrees obtained or being pursued (Article 21). 

Article 16, which is singled out for particular criticism by SCMP, requires provision of a course on Chinese language classes and a general introduction course on China (汉语和中国概况当作为高等学历教育的必修课). For international students majoring in politics and/or philosophy, a further compulsory course on  political theory must be taken.  These courses would take place in the first year of a four year degree at a Chinese university, while Chinese UG students take the compulsory courses in Marxist-Leninist Thought, Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Contemporary Chinese history. 

The three suggested courses, especially the provision of Chinese language tuition, makes a great deal of sense for students embarking on a four-year undergraduate degree.  However, further specifications are made on language which SCMP elected not to cover. 

Firstly, Article 18 clearly states that Mandarin is the official language of Chinese HE provision, but also allows for colleges and universities with the necessary facilities and resources to provide teaching and assessment in foreign languages (Article 19).  Specifically, coursework may be completed in a foreign language, with abstracts of theses/dissertations being provided also in Chinese. 

The SCMP article mentions the requirement of Chinese universities to “teach” international students about laws, regulations and customs. However, this is a stipulation laid out in Article 25 under Chapter IV: School Management.  It is actually a proviso placed on the school management, not a pedagogical requirement, and refers to induction information and pastoral support. 

 Chapter IV: Article 25 - Colleges and universities shall educate international students on the contents of Chinese laws and regulations, school discipline, national conditions, Chinese traditional culture and customs, and help them to become familiar with and adapt to the learning and living environment as soon as possible.
Colleges and universities should set up international student counselors to understand the international students of learning, living needs, timely information, advice, sports and other aspects of service work. The proportion of international student counselors is not less than the proportion of Chinese student counselors, and Chinese students counselors enjoy the same treatment.
 International students are specifically provided latitude to celebrate important traditional festivals (Article 27) and to establish a “Friendship Society” through the university’s systems for extra-curricular guidance (Article 28). 

The banning of religious activities is not dealt with in this document, nor is it specifically targeted at international students.  The PRC Higher Education Law (1999) and the PRC Education Law (1995) determine that religious activities are not to be facilitated inside educational institutions.  The new management guidelines on international students actually provide flexibility, but do not permit universities to contravene existing laws through provision of facilities for religious activities:

Chapter IV: Article 29 - Higher education institutions shall respect the national customs and religious beliefs of international students, but do not provide places for religious activities. No religious activities such as missionary or religious gatherings are permitted in the school.”
The SCMP also mentions that these regulations require international students living off campus to register with the Public Security Bureau, implying a new system of monitoring students.  However, as anyone who has lived in China will know, this is a requirement for any and all foreigners.  At all times, foreigners must have an up-to-date temporary registration certificate, whether they are staying with friends, in a hotel, renting an apartment, or have purchased their own home.  The presence of this requirement here is to improve university records of student residence and to ensure students are aware of the potential fines they face for not correctly registering at the relevant police station (派出所). 

The overlap of regulatory oversight of international students is why a joint policy has been issued by these three ministries.  It seeks to both clarify and strengthen the provision of counseling, induction and administrative services for foreign students, encouraging the universities themselves to develop systems to correctly administer international programmes.

The SCMP also highlights the role of "instructors" and, confusingly, compares these to political ideology tutors who deliver first year courses to Chinese students mentioned earlier.  Article 15 does mention the requirement for colleges and universities "select teachers suitable for international student teaching" with the purpose of ensuring improvements to "quality assurance system of education and teaching" regarding the education of international students.  Beyond this, there is no mention of any other functions or roles for the teachers.  It appears to be a simple encouragement for institutions to develop and select teachers who are capable of meeting the educational needs of international students.  

Certainly it also outlines some caveats in the provision, but these are mostly common sense.  Most international students take courses in Chinese language.  The provision of a general introduction to Chinese customs and society is something I wish I’d had in Fudan back in 2004.  And a course in political theory for degree-seeking foreign students enrolled on politics and philosophy majors at Chinese universities is, for want of a better expression, a no-brainer. 

If anything, this document evidences a clear intention on the part of the MoE, with the support of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Public Security, to provide a much more professionally administered service to international students.