Negative reports should not hinder internationalization of Chinese colleges: expert

By Zhang Han and Leng Shumei Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/17 18:53:41

Foreign students write calligraphy to celebrate the Lantern Festival at a university in Shanghai on February 19, 2019. Photo: VCG

Chinese officials have given reassurance that China will continue to be open to international students amid the controversy on Chinese social media that followed a wave of reports alleging preferential treatment for foreign students by certain colleges, while experts and students also said that some independent negative reports should not hinder the internationalization process of Chinese colleges.

Online discussion increased last week when reports claimed Ji'nan-based Shandong University allocated 141 "study buddies" to 47 international students in 2018 and said most of the buddies were female, while most of the foreigners were male. The university later apologized for the bad social impact caused by the policy and vowed to improve implementation of the program. Another story broke at the same time about nine foreign students being detained by police for taking drugs in the city of Xuzhou, East China's Jiangsu Province. 

While addressing the related issue, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said at a Monday briefing that China welcomes students from all over the world to study in China, which helps promote mutual understanding between China and other countries and has a positive meaning for people-to-people exchange between countries. International students should also abide by Chinese laws and regulations, and their legal rights will be safeguarded, Geng stressed.

Necessary help 

Chinese experts, students and college staff interviewed by the Global Times said that the negative reports were independent events and do not represent the group of foreign students as a whole and should not change China's policy of attracting international students. 

"Admission requirements for international students are comparatively lower than for domestic students in consideration of language and culture barriers, but we apply the same management policies to them after they enter the university," a member of staff surnamed Yang at a Shanghai-based university told the Global Times. 

International students generally study hard and abide by school regulations, the staff said. Yang pointed out that it was necessary to conduct communication and activities to help international students better fit in with Chinese people's daily life or they might only hang out with people from the same country. 

A graduate student from Beijing-based Tsinghua University surnamed Zhang echoed Yang's view, noting that there are also many different habits between Chinese and international students. 

Students from other Beijing-based universities told the Global Times that they interacted very well with international students and did not feel they got preferential treatment. 

"It is true that they are provided with better dormitories, but they need to pay more accordingly," a doctoral student from the Renmin University of China told the Global Times.

According to the student, her lodging fee is 1,000 yuan ($145) per year while that of her international classmate is 2,000 yuan per month. 

According to these students, programs where international students enjoy huge preferential treatment are very rare and they require the international student to be outstanding to earn such treatment. 

International students also said that some supportive policies are actually necessary for them when they arrive in the country. 

"Language buddy programs are important for both sides as the foreign counterpart exchanged his skills, language and expertise with his Chinese buddy," Munqith Alazzawi, a PhD candidate from Iraq at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times. 

Alazzawi said he did not realize the importance of language partners until he found it was difficult to live without basic language skills. "In fact, I believe other countries should also introduce language buddy programs to help Chinese students settle there smoothly," he said.

Supportive policies helping foreign students to adapt to a new environment are necessary and are a way to show Chinese kindness, but such "special offers" do not mean that academic and legal requirements for them should be lowered, Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the Shanghai-based 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Xiong said colleges should figure out better ways to implement these policies to avoid misunderstanding amid China's continuing internationalization process. He also noted that Chinese colleges should shift their focus from the number to the quality of international students and attract excellent students through improving their teaching quality.

Irresistible trend

China remains Asia's most popular destination for international students. In 2018, a total of 492,200 international students from 196 countries and regions studied, researched or received training in 1,004 Chinese colleges and universities, and other educational institutions, the Ministry of Education said in April. The number was about 489,200 in 2017. The three biggest source countries for international students in China in 2018 were South Korea, Thailand and Pakistan. 

The country saw a significant increase in the number of international students studying engineering, management, science, art and agricultural science in 2018, proving that the country's science education has become more attractive to international students.

"I love studying in China as it is a multicultural platform where I can meet many people from different cultural backgrounds, communicate with them and learn their cultures and languages," an Egyptian student at Renmin University of China told the Global Times on Monday. 

"I know there were some negative reports about international students, but I hope Chinese people understand that they do not stand for the whole group," he said. 

Chinese people will grow more accustomed to an international and multicultural environment as China opens up, the student noted, and that will help them figure out proper measures to deal sensitively with any more issues as they arise.
Newspaper headline: Students welcome


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