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Credibility of Bachelor's Degrees from Chinese Universities


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Hello all! This is my first thread, and I've already learned loads from this site. Thank you Roddy!

Anyway I'm wrapping up my second semester of Chinese language studies in Dalian at Dalian University of Foreign Languages and plan on doing my second year of Chinese study at Harbin Institute of Technology. I plan on relying heavily on Chinese language skills for work in the future. I feel that after studying next year in Harbin, my level will be decent.

The next step for me is to earn a Bachelor's Degree (yes, I'm kind of doing it backwards... :wink:). I really don't have any desire to return to the U.S. and earn it there. I find that the practical skills and knowledge gained while living in Asia far outweigh anything I could gain back home. (and it's A LOT more fun here!!!) BUT - and I stress the "BUT" - I'm really concerned about the credibility of Bachelor's Degrees earned in China. - If I do choose to stay and earn a Bachelor's here, it will probably be at Zhejiang Daxue. I heard its the #3 school in all of China, visited it myself and loved it.

My biggest question is whether or not American/International employers will accept or recognize a degree earned from ZheDa, or does it make a lot more sense to just go back home and earn a degree in the States so I won't have to worry about it? I've heard mixed reviews all along. Really, it's been 50/50. Some argue that if I earned a degree in China that that would prove to any employer that I was the real deal, that my chinese language level must be incredible, and would value the rare experience gained by living and learning with Chinese for so long. Others argue that an American degree is a universal degree and can't be compared in any way to any degree earned in China...while others say that it really depends on what I want to major in - that technical majors like the science, medical, and engineering should only be gotten in the U.S. while others might not be too bad here in China.

I'm really at a loss here and can't find any concrete facts to work with. I've been trying to find answers to these questions since before I even came to Dalian about a year ago. Any ideas, direction, or help at all will be immensely appreciated!!! :)

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I've hired a lot of people in the past, and a degree's "name" or pedigree only matters (IMO) for certain types of work, and also inversely related to the amount of work experience you have.

Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) for example (where I go) has a four year program in Chinese, but there are several other universities here that offer regular "International Trade" degrees, etc.

Since you are in Dalian, if you get a chance, contact the president of HYCC China (MrToga on this forum). If he has the time, he often gives out free advice. I recommend the company as well for the amount of help they give new students, smooth the registration process, etc., all from personal experience, but it sounds like you can certainly handle things on your own too.

For example, they would easily tell you (since they have people working in Harbin keeping in touch with the schools), that HeiDa also offers partial scholarships to 4 year students, and advanced placement (able to skip 1 or 2 years) based on testing. (I have their brochure after HYCC set up an interview for me last week).

BTW, I am staying at HIT, but for other reasons. I am not in a four year program.

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I agree with Stephan: foreign employers will likely focus on experience and technical skills than only on qualifications.

However, should you later try to attend a government position, it might cause you some problems. Governments tend to follow strict bureaucratic rules everywhere in the world.

I know my country (Belgium) only recognises degrees from Beijing University as well as from Tsinghua University. All bachelor degrees from other universities get simply downgraded to the level of secondary school. Rightfully so, as many schools in China simply issue qualifications no matter what exam results students obtain (including my school).

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Yeh, I think it really depends on what type of work you want to do. If you want to work "on the ground", in a small organization/business, etc. employers will really focus more on your skills than your formal qualifications. That said, I would think that you risk being the "translator" or "language" type, not really having much opportunities for career advancement. Perhaps you could earn an MBA or something later on if you want to work in business...

If you want to work for a large MNC or for the government, in the other hand, I would think you're in deep trouble. MNCs in the west don't even recruit from all American universities, but only from the better ones. You probably wouldn't even pass the screening process. Working for the government could be problematic for the reasons Senzhi mentioned (with respect to the US government, they would probably take for granted that you'd defect to China in any type of crisis and not hire you in the first place....).

Moreover, it also depends on your field. Chinese degrees in sciences/engineering aren't that different from those in the west. Essentially, they're about learning a number of facts, practical skills and applications. Often, they even use the same textbooks as they do in American universities. Degrees in arts/humanities and social sciences, however, are likely to be very different. People do these degrees not to learn a whole of "real" stuff (which commonly isn't that "useful" anyway), but to develop analytical abilities and critical thinking skills. My understanding is that in China, also these degrees would be very much focused on acquiring factual knowledge.

If you really intend to stay in China, why don't you give Beida/Qinghua a shot? I can't imagine it is anywhere near as difficult for foreigners as for Chinese to make their way into these schools...

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A diploma with a transcript (with course titles and descriptions translated into the language of the company or school you are applying to after graduation) should be enough to get a degree from a major Chinese university accepted.

With one caveat: I'd recommend against doing a program in Chinese itself (at least the type geared toward foreign students). It'd be a lot of language courses, some culture stuff, but you'd come out of it with little to show for it, just like the English majors that are churned out of China's universities. If you're interested in studying Chinese as opposed to some other subject, enroll in the department geared toward domestic students - that program will cover literature, theory, and other subjects, the sort of stuff you'd cover in a degree in English in a western university. Of course, depending on where you end up, you might have to be self-motivated much of the time, because the school might grade you more leniently than your Chinese classmates.

For other subjects, use your best judgment. Politics and history might not be good choices because of the ideological slant, but everything else is probably ok (even the humanities, contra yonglin). Consider the difficulty that graduates from small, private colleges often have when they enter a major university's grad program - you might be facing the same thing with a degree from a Chinese university (a big one. If you go to a lower-ranked, less well-funded school, all bets are off).

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