Shaoyang University Party chief removed following overseas doctorate candidates hire controversy
Published: Jul 25, 2022 03:34 PM
Photo of the Shaoyang College of Hunan Province. Screenshot of Toutiao News

Photo of the Shaoyang University of Hunan Province. Screenshot of Toutiao News

The Party secretary of Shaoyang University in Central China's Hunan Province was removed from office and the university was required to make corrections, Hunan provincial education authorities announced on Sunday. The move is in response to the controversy after it was revealed the school spent 18 million yuan ($2.67 million) hiring 23 employees with doctorate degrees from a university in the Philippines, triggering netizens' query over the legality of the practice and the value of the doctorate degrees.

An investigation revealed that Shaoyang University did not follow the school's actual development to formulate a scientific teaching staff building plan, and the improper practices exist in the introduction of doctoral talents and other aspects, said the authorities.

Peng Xilin, Secretary of the Party Committee at Shaoyang University, was removed from office for the school's failure to make proper decisions and act accordingly, authorities said. The provincial authorities have sent a working group to conduct further investigation.

The controversy reportedly came from a notice released by the HR office of the university on July 7 that the school was planning to hire-back over 20 teachers after they receive their degree in Adamson University in the Philippines.

According to the notice, the bonus for these to-be hired-back teachers includes an "introduction" fee for each doctorate candidate of 350,000 yuan, a scientific and research launch fee of 150,000 yuan, a subsidy for renting houses of 144,000 yuan, and a bonus of 200,000 yuan for those who don't need a job for their spouse. 

Compared with the "four-year academic system" for doctorate degree in domestic universities, netizens widely regarded this batch of doctorate candidates' studying time has been "shortened" as they mostly studied from August 2019 to December 2021.

Also, this batch of doctorate candidates are majoring in philosophy and Adamson University was ranked below 600th in the QS Asian University Rankings 2021, which triggered netizens' query that the university only aimed at increasing the proportion of doctoral teachers in a short period of time.

The incident has triggered a wide controversy among Chinese netizens, which has damaged the image of the local region, Xiong Bingqi, director of 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday. 

Questions remain, especially on how the university will rectify its image and deal with the batch of doctorate candidates, Xiong said. But for the long-term, the incident has called for the society to have "deep thought and refection" over the reasons behind the issue, according to Xiong.

A hashtag related to the incident has received 140 million clicks on Chinese twitter-like Sina Weibo as of press time. 

"The related departments should have a reflection over how to set up the goal and evaluation system of universities scientifically," one netizen wrote.

Xiong said this case isn't unique. In Xingtai, North China's Hebei Province, netizens found that Xingtai University in February opened a list of 13 teachers who were expected to be hired by the school and were all graduates of universities from South Korea with doctorate degrees. The 13 to-be hired teachers majored in education, Chinese studies and other sectors, according to the Xingtai authorities in February.

Netizens have the similar query as the case of Shaoyang University and they found that the 13 teachers previously worked in Xingtai University. It's not a problem for a university to send their incumbent teachers to have further studies overseas, but it's questionable when some universities introduce "highly educated talents" who obtain doctorate degrees in a short period overseas which may potentially be of low quality, some netizens noted.