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English-taught Master in Economic/Social Development


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Hello everybody and my compliments to those who invented this helpful forum!!

I have read a lot of posts about what I'm going to talking.. now I have clearer ideas and I got a some new infos, but still I'd like to look for someone who knows more specifically what I'm interested in.

I first introduce myself: I'm 25, from Italy. After my BA in International Relations I decided to focus my studies more specifically on Development issues and I'm now going to get my MA in International Cooperation to Development here in Milan (UCSC).

Three years ago I started meeting some Chinese students who came to my town for studying and step by step a deeper friendship with some of them brought me to the decision to know more about their culture, their history, and finally their language. I also choose to follow the (only one) course about China I had in my Master (The economic development of China) and now I'm writing the final dissertation about "The social welfare system's reform in China". Since I just had some lessons with a couple of friends and a basic self-study, my Chinese is still very poor, even if it's now 2 years that I started learning it.

Now that I'm about to finish I'm trying to figure myself out what I would like to do after and I actually have three options on the table. The first one is just to look for a job in the development projects field in China; the second one is to take some time (before lookin for a job) to go to China studying Chinese (one to two years); the third one is to take that time with a double aim: reaching a decent level in speaking/listening/reading Chinese and both deepen my knowledge about Chinese social/economic development.

For this reason I looked around for this kind of English-taught master and I finally found 7 I could be interested in, whose one at HKU (MA in China Development Studies), one at Nanyang University of Technology, in Singapore (MA in Contemporary China) and 5 in mainland China:

1. Beida - Master of Management in Public Policy

2. Fudan - MA in Chinese society and public policy

3. Tsinghua - MPA in International Development

4. Renda - MA in Contemporary China Studies

5. Beishida (BNU) - MA in Contemporary Development of China

What I'm asking now is:

1. Is there someone on here who attended one the 7 master programmes I mentioned above? Any feedback?

2. From the language-learning point of view, what do you think about studying in HK or Singapore? May such international environment have a negative influence?

3. Again from the language-learning point of view, those of you who attended an english-master programme (in whatever subject), may tell me if it works to reach both aims (uni in English and Chinese language) at the same time?

Thanks all of you in advance!


P.S.: don't look at some application's deadlines, I still can look for a short-term job here or going to China for 6 months, then applying for the next year

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Being in a similar situation as yourself (about to receive my graduate degree, planning on moving to China) I think the best option is path 2, taking language courses intensively for 1-2 years. That is colored by my own experiences working in China and Europe for 3 years prior to graduate study, during which time I was occasionally involved with the hiring and selection process for new entrants. What I write below is from my take on the perspective of a interviewing employer...

The issue with the first is that you are 25 (the threshold for receiving a working visa) and yet have no professional working experience, which makes it difficult to break into professional development work in China. It's certainly possible to find an internship and bust your ass to get a job after, but landing directly into a good contract after graduation on another continent is unlikely. Especially if you are risk-averse; most of internships only consider local (including foreigners already in China) applicants, because the chances of someone being offered a low or zero paying internship and choosing to relocate from Europe, at their own expense, is relatively low. In the firm I worked in we threw away any CVs which came from applicants not already living in Beijing (and still had a huge pile to go through). Many people are willing to land and study Chinese while looking for first internships, and if you aren't it signals a limited commitment to working in China.

The third option, pursuing a second masters, has the issue that it is a huge investment (time wise, and perhaps financially) for a return which may appear very marginal, given that you already have a similar degree. On the one hand people may view it as being good since its a degree from a "top" university, but on the other it may just seem like you were unwilling to dive into the labor market. If you were to pursue a second masters degree I think you'd be better off pursuing something more easily differentiated from your first masters, so that the time spent is easily justified to outside observers. Imagine your first interview in 3 years time and the potential employer asks "Why did you feel it was necessary to study another masters? Was there some issue with the quality of your first graduate degree?" Another consideration is job placement results for these Chinese master programs (for foreign students); when I'd spoken with some students a few years ago in Beijing and Shanghai my impression was there basically was no placement coordination or assistance, which meant you were essentially exactly where you started - depending on personal networks for tips or relying solely on "cold" submissions of CVs and cover letters. Price is also a concern, with some reports on this message board that some of these programs offer first year scholarships that are not renewed in the second or third year to extract payment (of what can be very high tuition fees by Chinese standards). Note that I'm not making any comments at all on the educational quality of these programs, strictly on how pursuing a second masters may impact a job search.

The second option is optimal in that it can clearly provide you with a skill you currently lack, and it is affordable. In an interview it is easy to justify why you did this instead of immediately entering the job market. The risk is that you don't actually improve your Chinese that much, which is entirely possible and your responsibility to avoid; you really need to hammer down on this if you are willing to devote a year or two to it.

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Agreed. I think the in his particular case, if development work is the ultimate goal, a good bet is to save some money now and give internships a shot for 3-12 months in China, assess what jobs he has access to, and then calibrate further education plans (Chinese, graduate studies, etc). If he highly values improving his Chinese (which may not be professionally-necessary), then that is a separate goal that has to be balanced with the first.

Nothing wrong with more studies (either language, or professional), so long as your goals and your methods are well aligned.

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Thank you both for your advices guys. I'm considering more than earlier the

What I'd like to know is actually if these kind of english-taught masters are a good opportunity to deepen my knowledge about socio-economic issues in China or not.

In more general terms I want to know if the distance (in other subjects than Chinese) from "western research and teaching standards" still remains huge even for the "top" universities... I mean: not considering that I'm interested in learning Chinese and other things, just from the degree quality point of view, is it worth to go studying in a Chinese university in the social science field?!

Because if it is not worthy, I also can go studying Chinese intensely for one year, then, if I'll still be interested in, flying to HK for the (one year!) master degree...

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  • 1 month later...


I'm kind on the same situation that you. Have you heard or do you have any info regarding the English taught Master in International Development (International Graduate Program in International Development) from the University of International Business and Economics (UIBE)? Pretty difficult to find students or alumni opinions about it.

I have received good feedback about MID at Tsinghua and Master in CDC at BNU, still have not looked for opinions about the other ones.

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@Lorenz: This is a pretty good blog on the Financial Times website about an MBA student at Tsinghua


I think it could be pretty useful to you because he's studying at one of China's best universities in English. I've been following it with interest since I've been in China. It's brilliantly written and all good advice. What's really interesting is his descriptions of some of their seminars etc - the huge differences between Western and Chinese academic approaches to business. I'd imagine there'd be similarly huge differences between Western and Chinese academic approaches to development. Something to bear in mind before you commit the time and money to a masters in China

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  • 1 month later...

I am also interested in development work in China (just finishing my master's degree in economics). I was looking at the microfinance sector, there is a website that gathers job offers in that area, some of them look pretty interesting. However, I am not exactly sure what the visa requirements are....Icebear, you said the threshold was 25? What exactly does that mean? From what I know, in order to get a work permit, you need to have 2 years of working experience....which would be a problem for me, I guess. I only did internships (which might amount to two years if you put them all together, but I doubt that it would count). And I am turning 25 this year.

BTW. did anyone do or apply for an internship with the UNDP in Beijing? I applied a couple of times (that is, filled out that form of theirs) and was never contacted (suprise surprise). The system is kinda annoying, with no offers posted........plus you need to be a full-time student....

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UNDP typically is only looking for Chinese natives these days. Except for mid-level and senior positions its hard to justify offering the position to a foreigner with visa needs over a well qualified local. Especially since China partially funds these organizations. On top of that, regardless of age, one is required to present signed and stamped letters from past employers confirming your position held and the dates/duration, with enough letters provided to clearly demonstrate 2 years of professional experience in the sector you are getting a job in.

Both rules are supposedly strictly adhered to in the professional sector these days. I know some English schools and universities may have sufficient guanxi to work it out for younger employees, but in general the odds are against you I think. Increasingly even good companies that probably could use their guanxi now just choose to include the above conditions in the job requirements (i.e. "Must be visa eligible with ..... to be considered for an interview").

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SO...it's basically impossible for me to move to China and start a career there in my field of study, as I understand it. I guess my best shot is just getting a tourist visa or teach english and look for a company that would be willing to hire me on the spot.........?

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@honzan Right, it's unlikely you'd be hired from abroad. Actually, at the lower to mid level a lot of hires are of local expats - it saves money (or expectations) on relocation costs, slightly lowers salary expectations, and increases the likelihood that the person you're hiring will actually show up (and isn't just applying for China jobs online on a lark).

A third alternative to what you've suggested is to enroll in a low hours Chinese program for a few months, which maybe would be more productive than English teaching regarding your job/life skills in China and would still allow for a mostly full time job hunt. And make sure to have enough of a nest egg saved for the possibility that nothing works out and you have to go back home afterwards.

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