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China steps up scrutiny of foreign education and internship providers

The Chinese government is increasing its scrutiny of overseas education providers in the wake of recent, high-profile cases in which foreign institutions have issued credentials to Chinese students without adequate academic standards or controls.

The drive to recruit Chinese students has been intense given the great demand for foreign education among China’s enormous student-aged population. Recent years have seen steady increases in the numbers of Chinese students going abroad to study as well as those enrolled in joint programmes offered in partnership between Chinese and foreign institutions.

The Chinese Ministry of Education called on Chinese universities to formalise their overseas partnerships and will be looking for standardisation of agreements as well as clearly spelled-out guarantees of what students will be studying and can expect in terms of credentials by participating in joint education programmes.

Please see the website of Xinhua, the official news agency in China, for additional details.

Meanwhile, this news comes in the wake of an investigation recently launched by the University Research Group (URG) following an audit of Foxconn, a Taiwan-owned company. Approximately 100 academics and students from 20 universities in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan are researching the working conditions of student interns at factories in China.

This investigation is in response to a report published by the Hong Kong-based China Labour Bulletin (CLB ) in January, which found that an alarming number of vocational students were routinely exploited and underpaid as interns for factories and businesses in southern and eastern China, including Foxconn, serving as a form of cheap, disposable labour.

More than nine million students graduated from China’s vocational schools and colleges in 2010, according to the latest official figures. Nearly all of them completed internships as part of their studies.

With a vocational school graduate employment rate at nearly 97% in 2010 and 2011, China will need to ensure vocational education remains attractive, safe and legalised in order to continue the growth it has enjoyed over the years.

It appears that 2012 is the year of increased scrutiny and regulations for China, a positive sign indeed.

Sources: Xinhua, University World News, Chronicle of Higher Education

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