Universities seek greater enrollment from abroad

Updated: 2013-08-26 07:39

By Yang Yang (China Daily)

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For Sang Peng, the problem lies in the government's regulations on international students.

"I think the government should pay more attention to education rather than regulations," he said.

In the 1950s, China started to receive international students, but the process was interrupted by the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) and only on July 1, did it become legal for foreign students to take a part-time job in China.

"Although more detailed regulations are needed and many problems will remain, the government has taken a big step toward following international trends."

Globally, countries are paying great attention to attracting foreign students because internationally mobile students bring financial and cultural benefits to their host countries.

In addition, non-educational issues such as pollution, food security and heavy traffic are keeping potential professorial recruits away if they have an option elsewhere. These issues could equally be keeping international students away.

"Back in the US, people talked a lot about the pollution here. I probably won't study for my master's degree in Beijing because of the poor air quality. Maybe I will go somewhere like Nanjing instead," he said.

Future tense

Yang said China's desire and need to attract more international students is in line with the country's rising global profile.

"It is in China's interests to host more students from overseas. They will help their own societies understand China better and interact with China more effectively across a range of social areas," he said.

"It's also in the interests of those who interact with China. International students have always been the best way of building intercultural relations and improving a country's influence. China is no exception and this has been proved by its own history and by contemporary practice among major world powers."

There is still a lot for the government to do; most important is educational reform that would benefit both domestic and foreign students, plus reform of the salaries of university teachers and the regulations on international students.

For Rahul Choudaha, director of research & strategic development at World Education Services, a nonprofit organization that specializes in international education and research, greater knowledge of the outside world is key: "China has untapped potential, but to realize grandiose goals, a deeper understanding of international students is required - shooting in the dark is a sure way to miss the goal."

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