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Hi guys,

 

I'm set to take a course in Chinese studies this year and I was wondering if anyone else on the forums has pursued an academic career in some aspect of Chinese culture, particularly social research. I'm still unsure what this degree will lead to in career terms but I'm seriously considering academia.

 

This being the case, my specific questions are:

 

What level of China related academic study have you completed?

 

What were the benefits of this?

 

If you are currently involved in an academic career what is your impression of job prospects and work culture, e.g. I have heard that research in the natural sciences is increasingly dominated by the chase for grant money and freedom to pursue personal research interests is very limited, is this also the case in your experience of China related research?

(considering that STEM subjects are considered more productive/profitable could it actually be worse in the humanities?)

 

Regarding language ability:

 

How much emphasis is put on production e.g. at a high academic level is it often required for one to speak and write at near native fluency or is it much more important to be able to understand such things but not necessarily produce them yourself?

(I suspect this question is very subject specific but I'm throwing it in anyway  :P )

 

Thanks guys!

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Angelina

Check this thread, I don't want to repeat myself, maybe you will find something useful there. 

 

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48491-any-feedback-about-getting-a-masters-degree-taught-in-chinese/

 

What level of China related academic study have you completed?

 

I am pursing a Master's Degree in Linguistics from Zhejiang University. I have obtained 17 credits (学分) so far. Still working on my thesis, the topic is: Verbal Aspect Seen as a Spatial Metaphor. This is a working title, might change it. 

 

What were the benefits of this?

 

Still working on it. My Chinese is getting better and better. 

 

If you are currently involved in an academic career what is your impression of job prospects and work culture, e.g. I have heard that research in the natural sciences is increasingly dominated by the chase for grant money and freedom to pursue personal research interests is very limited, is this also the case in your experience of China related research?

(considering that STEM subjects are considered more productive/profitable could it actually be worse in the humanities?)

 

I don't want to divide subjects into STEM and humanities. I am thinking of doing a PhD in Cognitive Science. 

 

I have had enough freedom. I am not sure if I will stay in China, it depends on funding opportunities and potential academic advisors. There is a lot of money in China, but I am not sure if I will have any access to it without compromising when it comes to the pursuit of personal interests and academic freedom in general.

 

 

How much emphasis is put on production e.g. at a high academic level is it often required for one to speak and write at near native fluency or is it much more important to be able to understand such things but not necessarily produce them yourself?

(I suspect this question is very subject specific but I'm throwing it in anyway   :P )

 

 

China is trying to attract more international students. Therefore, the rules might be lenient. It's fine to start with less than perfect Chinese, it's not fine to submit a thesis that does not look like a thesis. 

 

I would never publish anything below native level fluency, I would never cheat either. I would rather drop out than do that. Just because certain things might be tolerated does not mean that we have to do them. 

 

 

Another option is doing it outside of China and using English. Foreign universities in China seem like a good option too. 

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Thank you for the reply Angelina. I have been following that thread closely. I'm afraid I wasn't clear in my answer, but I'm more likely to pursue this career in the UK, at least for starters. It's great to get your feedback though because I would still consider a PhD in China if I could find the right supervisor and funding.

 

As it happens you were the person I wanted to talk to the most in some ways. The course I will be doing has a six month period at Zhejiang University so I was hoping to get your impressions of the school. The website looks pretty slick and the choice of courses looks pretty exciting. I'm not yet sure how the six months is supposed to be structured but I believe some element of choice is involved so that should be good. However, I have just seen you have given extensive feedback on the universities forum page so I won't trouble you with generic questions. I will be specific. Have you met anyone from a British university doing an exchange at Zheda, more specifically, have you met anyone from The School of Oriental and African Studies? The course I'm doing is new so this may be the first year it's running but I'm very curious to find out what the China visit is going to be like. Thanks in advance!

 

(P.S. I'm not trying to privilege some subjects over others but it's just a distinction that exists for most people, there's a reason the oil industry invests millions in geology and stuff like that  :shock: )

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realmayo

LiMo, I was going to apply for that course when there were very generous looking scholarships ... regret not doing so now.

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Angelina

By the way, I’m Dr T, linguist and is British educated at Sheffield, London (SOAS), Edinburgh. I also spent a number of years at universities in China, Japan and Vietnam. 

 

This is really bad. The CI offered free Chinese teaching or even 'invested' a certain amount of money. You shouldn't give up. You can at least use the argument that the students were learning Chinese better when you were teaching. You know much more about Chinese grammar than any random 'native' teacher they can send. I have a lot to say on the topic, the most important thing is not to give up. Once we give up ...

 

Have you met anyone from a British university doing an exchange at Zheda, more specifically, have you met anyone from The School of Oriental and African Studies? The course I'm doing is new so this may be the first year it's running but I'm very curious to find out what the China visit is going to be like. Thanks in advance!

 

Of course I did, we had so much fun last year. She is still at SOAS I think, you should talk to her.

 

I remember her studies were pretty relaxed. You will be free to choose the courses you want. What exactly are you interested in? She is doing literature. 

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ZhangKaiRong

@Tiana

 

It's pretty outrageous. The same thing happened in my home country: CI completely destroyed the Chinese education at the former best university in terms of Chinese teaching. What was the result? Good teachers left the university, and they were replaced with teachers sent by CI from China. Originally, students graduating from that certain university could speak good Chinese. Nowadays, fresh graduates can barely speak, because the new method is let them memorize as much Hanzi as it is possible, even if those Hanzi are not useful at all.

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Thanks for being sympathetic and the encouragement, Angelina!

I didn’t give up at all.  I was simply sacrificed and killed off. If I were not made “redundant”,  the Confucius Institute would not be able to take over (China communicated that it wanted to run Chinese studies on its own terms) ; and my boss, the Dean at the time, would not be able to claim that he attracted such and such amount of funding from China, and used that as the ticket for promotion to higher position elsewhere (Many university administrators still see China as a source of “free lunches” and they look for such “talents” like my Dean). Besides, why pay for lecturers to teach if they can get teachers for free from China? In fact, the British Association for Chinese Studies wrote to the university to register its concern, but its voice fell on deaf ears:

 

“The Ulster case is the first case that we know of where the founding of a Confucius Institute has been linked explicitly with the redundancy of existing staff and the closing down of an existing programme. It creates the impression that the arrival of a Confucius Institute makes existing activity redundant, and this we must oppose as a matter of principle.”

 

 

@ ZhangKaiRong:

Yes, as I understand it, it’s happened in many places, those places without the force to fight back and places where China think they can get away with, and that is the caution I'm trying to sound out. It’s not without reasons that China has been involved in conflicts with so many of its weaker neighbours. Reading the thread on the Confucius Institutes (see: http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/46335-university-of-chicago-cut-ties-with-confucius-institute/), I think and hope that the West is gradually waking up to the danger.

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Angelina

Even Chinese language education (the 语文课) in China itself has suffered from the reforms. 

 

Reminds me of this thread and the experience Simon_CH had

 

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/48030-us-students-losing-interest-in-china-as-dream-jobs-prove-elusive/

 

Simon 曰:

True of course Silent, but I think they were also missled by media, universities and the general public who hyped Chinese as the language of the future, that anyone speaking it will be overrun with job offers, etc. It was these promises a couple of years ago, combined with the economic growth of China that lead many students to study Chinese in combination with perhaps another field, only to realize that they would have to spend much more time to really master Chinese. But that gamble didn't pay off for most of my friends, and probably not for the majority of such students elsewhere either. 

 

Are those degrees taught by CI supplied teachers too? 

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Since I left the university, I've had no inclination in looking into what they were doing, so I can't be sure but I don't think they offer any degree course in Chinese. A cursory look into the programs on the website shows that what they call "X (=academic subject) with Chinese" are courses with an optional module in Chinese for those who are interested, but not degrees in Chinese as such. My ex-students actually told me that the staff make students on such courses take HSK exams to generate income for the CI.

 

Despite what they claimed, I don't think the  CI is interested in setting up degree courses in Chinese. Their primary objective seem to be setting up Confucius Classrooms for...(what shall I call it?  :D ) propaganda work on children in schools, with "teachers" sent from China, of course.

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tallcity

When I was studying in Shanghai, I mentioned to my prof that I was a Confucius Institute Scholarship student. He reacted angrily, and his opinion was that CI is just a way to not pay professors full wages, by instead having young teachers from China teach instead. So, basically just as you said, except from the mouth of a Chinese.

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@Tiana

Wow, thank you so much for sharing Tiana, that can't be an easy experience to recount. Honestly, I'm a little daunted now but I shall try and persevere, I will proceed with more caution regarding the Confucius Institutes. I think it's a real shame that they are so ruthless in their dealings, not least because they seem to be failing, resulting in losses on both sides (the fact that there are even "sides" saddens me.") Can't they see that honest cultural exchange will  be more effective in the long run. These kinds of tactics will just help to turn people away from "China" and Chinese people in the future.

 

Did you do much research at the time or was it mainly a teaching position? Perhaps it's a little far in the past but I'd be interested to know how research in these fields is conducted vis. funding and grants.

 

Also, do you mind telling us what you are doing now?

 

@Angelina

 

That's brilliant. I'm interested in race relations, social identity and a number of other things. So far I haven't made much headway on literature but I, like yourself, want to be able to write native level compositions one day. Literature may well be my thing, I certainly love reading books, but it's all very general at the moment.

Does your friend have an account or will I have to commit heresy and ask for other means to contact her. Actually, I may just ask her if I can post her feedback here for others to view. She's likely to agree to that, no?

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Angelina

propaganda work on children in schools

 

Alarming. 

 

It's strange how this institute is trying to represent China and Chinese culture by silencing all other voices. Why should it be attached to a university? Why shouldn't the university employ other people teaching Chinese? Who benefits from it? It's certainly not the students if their teachers are not qualified. 

 

Social identity is interesting. You can start with my favorite: What is the East?

I am a Westerner? Why do people divide themselves into different groups? The nation state and China.

 

Sure, I will ask her to join. You can add her on Facebook/WeChat too. 

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realmayo
It's strange how this institute is trying to represent China and Chinese culture by silencing all other voices.

 

Why's it strange?

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@ LiMo:

After moving to Chinese (from Japanese), I primarily focused on setting up and building up the subject and for research, my interest was in Chinese characters as they were developed and used within the  汉字文化圈 (no funding or grants though). I thought that my knowledge and ability in the three languages within 汉字文化圈 would sustain my research interest in this area for a long time but it's all shelved now, and I currently get by as a freelancer in interpreting and translation work.

 

Yes, CI is a timed bomb for China, but the problem is it will be creating many more victims around the world meanwhile.

 

@ Angelina

Alarming.

 

 

Ok, I take that back, and call it "disseminating Chinese culture" :wink:

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@Angelina

 

Yes, that's a very good question. I think I'd also like to do some comparisons between China and Japan and how international students from these countries integrate when they go abroad. My own, highly anecdotal evidence, suggests an interesting difference.

 

@realmayo

Sorry for the late reply. Yeah, I know what you mean about the scholarships. There's a really great one that I don't qualify for at the moment. The one time I regret getting into uni before the price hike. There's a scholarship but it's only available for students who got into uni after the ConDems' reforms, a 27K loan that I may never have to pay off is much preferable to a 14K one that I definitely have to pay off as soon as the course ends, job or not!

 

@Tiana

That sounds very interesting. I hope things improve for you.

I'm at the stage where my mental map of characters is becoming quite a bit more solid and I'm really enjoying linking everything up. I'm learning simplified but I often find that it helps me to take a look at the traditional form, somehow it just adds support to my memory of the character.

 

I've heard that a great deal of excellent scholarship on China has been done in Japan and so it's best to learn to at least read Japanese at some point in the future. Would you say that's accurate?

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@ LiMo: Yes, it's accurate that in Japan there has been a great amount of research done on China, but I'm not sure if it's a great idea to learn Japanese for this reason alone :)

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tooironic
@Tiana I hesitate to get into such a sensitive topic as this, but I have to ask: if you think CI treated you poorly and unfairly, what is your opinion about that university in Northern Ireland and what they did? In my experience, universities all over the world - whether they be Chinese or non-Chinese - are trying to cut costs, with often the result being casualisation of the workforce and redundancies. But I wonder why we are so quick to judge CIs but lay little blame on the Western institutions who are complicit in these practices? Would you say they were totally innocent in all this?

 

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