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Chinese students in US shamed by scandals: study

The Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo: AP

The image of Chinese students in the United States is marred by academic dishonesty as more Chinese students are studying abroad at a younger age, according to a recent study.

The study entitled Annual Report on the Development of Chinese Students Studying Abroad (2015) was jointly released by the Center for China and Globalization (CCG), a Chinese think tank dedicated to research on globalization of talents and corporations, and the Social Sciences Academic Press.

International students in US account for one-fifth of global total

In 2013-2014, the number of international students enrolled at US universities increased by 8.1 percent to 886,052 students, accounting for one-fifth of the overall overseas students in the world. The figure makes the US the largest destination for international students globally.

M ajors including science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) top the list of American and British top 10 university majors with the highest starting salaries. Graduates in the US majoring in oil drilling and production get the highest-paying jobs, with an annual salary of up to $103,000, followed by graduates majoring in chemical engineering, who can obtain an average annual salary of $68,200.

The CCG found that 85 percent of international students who majored in STEM come from Asia. Eighty percent of Indian students studying in the US choose STEM as their majors, largely surpassing the number of the country's students studying commerce and other subjects, said the CCG.

According to CCG data, Chinese students in the US, Britain and Canada prefer to study commerce and STEM.

Other favorable majors include business administration (22.19%), engineering technology (15.66%), math and computer science (8.57%), social science (8.04%), medical science (7.62%), life sciences (6.66%) and art (5.66%).

Chinese students studying abroad at younger age

In 2013, 235,600 Chinese students studied in the US, outnumbering the American students studying in China by 221,200 people. The gap widened by 161.78 percent compared to five years ago, when the shortfall was 84,500 people. According to the 2014 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange, American colleges and universities enrolled 274,439 Chinese students in 2013-2014. The number for American students studying in China in the same academic year has not been released yet by American authorities.

Miao Lv, executive secretary of the CCG, called the phenomenon a "deficit" in overseas students. "The long-standing trend shows that China's higher education is less attractive to international students than internationalized foreign universities. Additionally, it leaves a leeway for China to adopt more favorable policies to lure international students," said Miao.

So far, China has rolled out a series of measures to attract foreign students.

On September 22, 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed a welcome dinner in Seattle during its US visit, saying, "In the next three years, China will support a total of 50,000 Chinese and American students to study in each other's countries, and the US will provide opportunities to as many as 1 million American students to learn Chinese by 2020."

As China is proceeding with its "One Belt, One Road" blueprint, the countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will play a larger role in attracting Chinese students from English-speaking Western countries.

The Chinese students in the United States are now younger than they were a decade ago. Photo: Susan Tusa

Wang Huiyao, founder of the CCG and vice president of the Western Returned Scholars Association, said that the "talent dividend" created by international students studying and working in China, together with all-around reform, will help China increase its soft power and international competitiveness.

There is greater number of younger Chinese students, especially high school students, studying abroad in 2014-2015, according to the CCG report, which shows that the proportion of Chinese students who studied at foreign universities after completing domestic high school curriculum dropped to 44 percent from 61 percent in 2012, while 27 percent of Chinese high school students chose to study at foreign high schools in the same period, an increase of 10 percent from 2012.

From July 2014 to February 2015, the number of Chinese students studying at American high schools increased by 50 percent, according to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.

However, it is noticeable that the trend of Chinese students studying abroad at a younger age has created some problems. In June, a group of Chinese students studying in the US stood trial for allegedly kidnapping and torturing a fellow Chinese student.

Shi Xi, an educational consultant based in New York, told the that Chinese students always find it hard to communicate with their American peers, which leads to their preference to stay in their own small community, where malignant incidents often occur. She added that the kidnapping case is the most violent among the scandals.

Chinese students' image tainted by dishonesty, misconduct

With an increasing number of Chinese students studying in the US, incidents of misconduct by some Chinese students have been exposed on and off.

The CCG released a negative list which includes several scandals related to Chinese students in the US, such as collective cheating at a SAT exam in 2014 and expulsions of about 8,000 Chinese students from US universities due to misconduct in 2014.

An admission officer at the University of Washington has revealed that as much as 10 percent of Chinese students applying for the university are denied each year for submitting fake essays and high school transcripts.

Miao attributed the situation to the market pressure some students and parents feel to apply for top-class universities in foreign countries. Some Chinese schools even falsify the students' academic transcripts in order to enhance the international image of the schools, said Miao.

The other reason, Miao said, is the overseas study service agencies who try every means to whitewash their clients' academic background for a higher likelihood of being enrolled in foreign universities.

The CCG disclosed that a large part of the 330 overseas study service agencies which are verified by the Chinese authorities are not qualified to run such business in China, with some agencies even touting some illegal services, such as ghostwriting, to help clients apply for foreign universities

Discrimination against Asian-Americans in admission process

In May, a coalition of 64 Asian American organizations filed a federal complaint against Harvard University and other Ivy League colleges, alleging that these universities discriminate against Asian-American applicants by setting a higher bar for admission than other groups.

The complaint contended that the university has set quotas to keep the numbers of Asian-American students significantly lower than the quality of their application merits.

The coalition was seeking a federal investigation and requesting Harvard "immediately cease and desist from using stereotypes, racial biases and other discriminatory means in evaluation of Asian-American applicants."

The percentage of Asian-American students enrolled to Ivy League colleges is still kept at 14-18 percent, even though the number of the group's students has been doubled in the past two decades and the quality of their application merits has been hugely enhanced.

In American mainstream society, Asian-American students are labeled as a group that lacks social skills, innovation and leadership, except for being good at math, physics and chemical.

"Chinese students face discrimination in the US when seeking jobs or working as interns. In Americans' eyes, Chinese students are nothing short of passers-by, who will leave their country one day. The concept leads to a big headache for Chinese students in finding a job after graduation," said Jiang Ying, who is studying at a business college in New York.

(This article is translated and edited by Ding Yi.)

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