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PRC Study Academy - Beijing - Query

Barb in Maryland

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Hello -

I have seen many postings about BLCU and a few about PRC Study. PRC Study offers an option called PRC Study Academy that they say is different from the standard BLCU offering. They claim class sizes of 4 to 5.

Has anyone out there done the Academy? If so, would you mind sharing your experiences with me?

I am currently teaching in Chongqing. I have studied a little Mandarin - through Book 1 of the New Practical Chinese Reader, and have some tutoring here, as well. But, it is hard to concentrate on studying Chinese while I am teaching. I probably know 150-200 characters reliably.

I am most interested in speaking, but want to continue characters - more for reading than for writing.

I am also looking at the Taipei Language Institute in Dongcheng (Beijing). If you have studied there, I would like to hear from you, as well.

Thank you for your help.

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Hi Barb,

I shall also be studying Mandarin in Beijing in September 2006.

Up until recently I was corresponding with PRC Study...although they are very helpful (by email), they are a private institute and as far as I can work out are not part of a university. (Any one correct me if I'm wrong).

I tried to find out about their standards and reputation but nobody I spoke to had heard of them. This was after speaking to friends who have either studied Mandarin recently (2004/5 and Jan06) in Beijing, TEFL teachers based there, expats out there or Beijingers.

Most people I have spoken to have high recommendations for (no particular order):

BLCU (Beijing Language and Culture University)

- over 20 years experience and reputation

- know at least two people who have studied with them recently - degree & 5-week course

- lots of English speaking students - bad thing?

Remmin University

- again have heard good things about them, but limited short courses and dates

- do not know anybody who has studied there

Tsinghua University

- know 1 person who has just returned from spending a year there. Highly recommended.

- more Japanese and Koreans attend, so very little/no English spoken - a good thing?

- was told that univeristy of same name in Taiwan is the top one over there (Taipei I think).

Other observations and others views:

Class size:

- PRC Academy is max 8 vs. BLCU min 15.

- However, don't know min PRC size. Would they really start a clas for say 1-2.... sceptical me thinks not ... you'll probably be put in class with greater mix of levels.

- More people enrol for the universities - esp. Sep & Feb so more classes of various levels.

Standards & reputation:

Many universities are affliated with universites in UK, US & Auz as part of degree courses.

BLCU and Tsinghua Fees:

- Appying directly vs. going via PRC - PRC are more than DOUBLE[/b]. Huge profit!:shock:

Std vs Premium (views from friend who studied at Tsinghua):

- you can organise additional electives elsewhere if interested and probably cheaper.

- easy and cheaper to arrange 1-2-1 tuition privately once out there. Told approx £3/hr.

- if you really want a language partner check the uni/hostels noticeboards.

But bear in mind that they are probably trying to learn English.

- you're already in Chongqing, so I expect you're used to arranging your own travel so don't need their travel planning assistance or airport pick up/drop off.

- long distance calling card - need I say more :roll:

- social activities and excursions...I'm sure you're a friendly sort! :) DIY it!

At the end of the day, it's your time, money, experience and decision!

Hope this is helpful and everything works out. Let me know what you decide.

See ya

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A good friend of mine, Pete, attended PRC. He generally had a good time and liked the atmosphere especially the student lounge. However, he refers to them as horribly overpriced. As for the academy, I would say that the students from there (many of which I met with and went out with to play) have been average to slightly above average speaking ability comparable to BLCU (probably because of the smaller class sizes). However, they all seem to be happy. Although it is worth mentioning that he is going to attend BLCU next semester.

I will invite him here to make a posting and not put words into his mouth. Here is his blog about studying in China, which is absolutely hilarious.

(look at the picture that he made at top of the blog LOL)

Further observations:

Much like WorldLink tried to do with its own Academy (which has changed names recently: now known as Academy of Foreign Language Study, I attended and my experiences with them were unfortunately negative, leading to my own school formation), it's pretty much a replica of other schools. Same methodologies same books. However I've heard that the students at PRC have more fun. For example, sometimes in class they would watch movies, you can read a little bullet about this on his blog, and students like to chill in the lounge.

But basically it is a private institution with as far as I know with no accreditation ("don't quote me on that"). As the previous poster mentioned, they will coordinate with you with other universities and charge double, or you can go to their own "Academy" for roughly the same price but they get to keep even more money because they operate it.

Manager who runs it, Vivian, apparently has an awful reputation. She has been described as, “anal retentive”, “high strung”, and a “mean”. However all of these have been in reference to how she deals with the staff, not to customers. My friends have never said that she was mean to them only that they felt sorry for the staff.

I actually would like to defend her, although I’ve not having personally met her. From everything I hear she seems to be a perfectionist with the staff. The customers I have known all say the staff does not like her. However, I can understand the frustration of trying to ensure consistent levels of service and quality in China. So while the staff may hate her, this shows that there is a level of caring for the customer which I always admire. The downside for this is the employee turnover, and lowered teacher morale. Apparently, according to the customers I have met, teachers and others don't hang around for too long.

This is just a guess on my part, but I'm guessing that Vivian is working with her own standards of quality but with a limited budget.

I also subject my teachers to stringent and sometimes irritating/nit picking things, but I am able to pay them well above the average so that I keep employee turnover to a minimum. (Also, when I hire I try to tell them what they're getting into –advantages and disadvantages) Also, my compensation scheme depends on how much the student learns and the student's perception of happiness/class morale, so that things are more balanced out.

So my guess is, she's trying to be very demanding of the staff but has been limited in what she can pay them because of higher management. Unfortunately, teachers throughout the world tend to be underpaid. Here in the US (my mom is a language teacher with a Ph.D.) that is definitely the case. While teachers in Beijing tend to make above the average salary or twice that, unfortunately there is very little in terms of pay-for-performance or merit-based pay. Consequently, I've seen many institutions with high rates of turnover because the salaries are relatively the same regardless. Why would I, as a teacher or staff, stay around in an environment when there is more stress when I can get about the same pay elsewhere?

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Like all answers on this forum, [I]it depends on what you really want to accomplish and your preferences[/i]. If you are looking for small class sizes but similar to BLCU I would actually steer you towards the University of International Relations-Centre for Int'l Studies. They have much smaller class sizes, use the same methodologies, are a little bit cheaper, a little bit more flexible, and have more English speakers as they don't take the Koreans/Japanese if they can't speak English (Consequently people tend to be more on the same level, since no one has a firm grasp of characters coming in). Disclosure: Our school 1-Month Mandarin Program - Chinese Language Institute of Beijing, has a relationship with UIR, they are the accrediting institution although we are loose competitors (but not really because my focus is more specialized).

However, hiring a company like PRC, can come with benefits because there's a whole lot less stress involved. But of course you will pay for this because you have to pay for their staff, their office space, insurance, risk compensation, and of course their profit. But there are other companies that do this too (http://www.iscbj.com Int'l Students Center BJ for example and Educasian-would recommend the first, not sure about the second) And you may be able to negotiate if you need fewer services.

However, I know there is a string about finding a tutor and (I contributed somewhere about the difficulty finding a tutor) and it's not always quite as simple as going to just find anybody. Quality can vary widely.

As for Taipei Language Institute: I've spoken with someone involved with the planning of their materials. I like their philosophy, although some of it tends to be a little bit Taiwan oriented. Generally, I have heard good things about them, and would recommend them above many places (including PRC and BLCU).

And of course, at long last, if you are interested in speaking/reading you can consider my program (shameless plug I know:mrgreen: ): Our Chinese Language School. It's not for everybody and your level already might be too high but something to consider, but we may be able to cut out extra services. You can let me know, and if it's not suitable for you I can try to get you into the hands of a good competitor. You have to pick something that meets your budget and your preferences and goals. What ever you choose please come back and post after the fact. We all want to hear your experiences.

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And why'd you choose it? And what are the differences? Come on folks, information! Not random titbits 8)

Seriously, 'I chose BNU' and 'there are differences' aren't much use for someone trying to make a decision. Back it up with a bit of detail or a link to somewhere else if you can.

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Hi Roddy,

'there are differences' aren't much use for someone trying to make a decision. Back it up with a bit of detail or a link to somewhere else if you can.

sorry I knew that was a lil' vague, but about posted out for the day--trying to make up for the last 1.5 mo.s and trying to survive :wall

I know less about BNU than some others as I have only met a few ppl from there. It still strikes me as in the "traditional" approach method, but less crowded/commercial than BLCU. As I meet more people I will feel more comfortable elaborating. My overall impression is that ppl think it is "decent" but unlike many other schools I have not been there and sat in on classes or have close relationships with their students. Although speaking with others about Chinese learning is a favorite topic of mine and I've practically interogated those I have met -maybe that's why we are not close friends LOL.

I have to convince them to GET ON THIS FORUM and tell it themselves. Alas, they don't. I think we need to have a marketing campaign for this forum-b/c I know lots of ppl out there could give first hand accounts which is way better than "Well I heard . . ."

Adrian can we count on you to keep us posted as you go along (and why you chose it in the first place)?

PS Roddy

Fighting entropy
Lol. I love it. Have you read Covey's The 7 Habits? Is that where it's coming from?
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Oh, right, I just assumed you'd come along and tell people to use the search facility where this has all been discussed before, including my reasoning :)

I'll come back to this thread in the next day or two and put down my reasons.

(edit to add ....)

Adrian can we count on you to keep us posted as you go along

Absolutely. I start in September for one semester, assuming my life in general doesn't suffer any major suprises which cause me to change my plan! I work in IT, freelance, and the only thing likely to change my mind about this 6 month break is finding a decent IT contract in China. In which case I'll work, earn money, and study in the evenings.

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Right. Why I picked BNU.

A bit of history, although this post is really a collation of various other stuff I've already posted ... I studied Mandarin for 2 years, just one hour a week during term time, and stopped a couple of years ago when I found I was forgetting more in the week than I was learning.

A friend, who taught at SOAS and is Taiwanese, was teaching me from the Practical Chinese Reader. No, not the new edition, the old one. I got about 2/3 of the way through the second book before stopping the lessons. Every now and again, I read through a chapter and practice some characters, to make sure I stay at that level.

Being in my mid 30s, a freelance IT consultant, I thought I'd get my mid life crisis out of the way early and spend 6 months studying a semester of Mandarin in Beijing. Not because I think it'll help my career - that's going fine, and learning Chinese in order to compete with people happily earning 1/4 of my salary isn't a smart move - but because it's just something to do. Something different.

I went to China for the first ever time lat November. Spend 10 days in Beijing cycling around looking at schools (also going to restaurants, bars and a club, but hey - it's a holiday).

Beida I ruled out as although it's a fantastic place and has a great reputation, it's not really geared up to teaching mandarin to foreigners. It's also not cost effective. It would be like suggesting to someone that Oxford or Cambridge University would be great to study english as a foreign language. It's not. If I was studying anything else I would probably pick Beida as it looked great, but not for me.

For similar reasons, I ruled out Tsinghua. Also, I'd spend the whole 6 months wondering why they couldn't use pinyin instead of Wade Giles when coming up with the English name. Lovely campus, and had a real university feel, but - again, not for Mandarin.

BLCU. I hated it. My first impressions were of a large group of loud, beer drinking, young Americans in the campus. I don't go all the way to China to be surrounded by that. So, off to a bad start. The campus was OK, but looked run down and I didn't see many mixed groups of people walking around. Either a bunch of chinese, or a bunch of caucasians. That aside, the clincher was when I went to the admin office to find the most unhelpful people ever. I think BLCU rides on a reputation gained by its publishing arm. That said, they offered the most in the way of flexibility.

I also think Wudaokou is a love/hate thing. Very studenty. It would be fun for a while, but I'm 36 and would tire of it. I cycled around and kept finding small groups of people walking around chatting to each other in English. I have very little willpower so would probably end up in the same boat.

Last on my list (of 4) was BNU. A nice, modern campus and quite central. Easy cycle distance up to Wudaokou and also across, via the centre, to Sanlitun for those yuppie moments away from the students.

BNU also was a lot easier to "understand". The accommodation was clearly marked, the admin office easy to find, and the staff friendly. I needed to use my basic mandarin to ask my questions, but they may have been OK in English had I stuck to it. Don't know. They were friendly and helpful, plus it seemed that most of the Mandarin class (I took a peek) were other Asians. Now, I know from experience that Japanese and Koreans study 25 hours a day, and maybe some of that will rub off onto me. BNU also explained clearly their policy on class placement and seemed very flexible on this matter.

My plan, which is only going to change if I end up landing an IT contract in China (or another chinese speaking country), is to study at BNU from September until January this year. Being an IT geek at heart, I aim to be internet connected the whole time and will keep people updated. It does seem that on this web forum many people drop in, aska question, then having got an answer bugger off into the ether. I promise not to do that :)

Why Mandarin and not some other language? I could have picked Thai, as I have a new found love of Northern Thailand, but it's not a widely spoken language. Also, my boyfriend is Taiwanese and I want to understand the gossip when he chats with our friends. You would have thought that having a mandarin speaking partner would be really good for my language skills, but it's not. He doesn't know pinyin and talks bloody fast. He also speaks perfect English. Yes, I've picked up useful phrases such as "gan ta ma de leng", but that's not a great help for everyday making-friends conversation. Although in a Beijing Winter it might be.

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Hi Adrian,

Could you pls expand on your reasoning for not choosing Tsinghua, and Tsinghau vs BNU?

Like you, I've also gone off BLCU - too easy to speak English and too commercialised.

Hence, was leaning towards to Tsinghua. Have found out they are only running min. 1 semester courses.

However, know nothing about BNU.


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expand on your reasoning for not choosing Tsinghua

On a quick check, I thought the BNU semester was shorter than the Tsinghua one, although when I investigated further I found that they were the same. Obvious, really, but at the time I only wanted to study 12 weeks, and it looked like BNU would do this. However, now that I have decided to study for a whole 6 months anyway, that distinction has gone.

However ... BNU has a good reputation for teaching foreign students mandarin. The "normal" bit in "Beijing Normal University", which originally confused me (what a stupid name I thought!) actually means it's a place for teaching teachers. As such, and there are other "normal" universities throughout China, it does have a good reputation.

Tsinghua has a great reputation as a University. Not specifically for teaching mandarin to us foreigners. In my investigations, I found the campus at BNU easier to comprehend (by that I mean find my way around, and find the foreign admissions office etc.) than the much larger campus at Tsinghua. Also, it's more central. I cycled around Tsinghua campus for about 2 hours. Longer than I wanted, but I got lost and, as it got dark, I thought I would be stuck forever in a maze of dead-end alleys!

At the end of the day, I had to make a decision and although I'm sure Tsinghua would also have been a good place, I've picked BNU. Easy campus. Easy-to-find accommodation. Helpful admin staff in the office when I went. Central location. Good reputation for teaching foreign language teachers (whew - what a sentence!).

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  • 1 month later...

Hello Adrian,

I plan to study at BNU next sept (2006), but I wonder how to manage the appartment :

- spend one month at BNU while I look for something private (allowed to have a room for 1 month ?)

- spend some time at a hotel and look at a private place ?

- best way to find something between BNU and center city ?

- Sharing a flat with chinese ? Any site for offers ?

Would you please let me know if you have any detail about getting best accomodation for a 36 years old science computer engineer ?

Many thanks.



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I'm a 37 year old computer science engineer type person!

I don't really know what I'm going to do - I haven't even applied for the course yet :) But that is in hand.

My current plan is to stay in their accommodation for 2 weeks (I think if you leave within 2 weeks you don't face any penalty) and spend that time trying to get an apartment. I like the idea of having my own space, although I guess that depends on who I'm put with in the BNU acommodation.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another fellow computer science person! Initially my girlfriend an I applied to Tsinghua because of its reputation (a lot of my graduate classmates were from that university). Upon finding this forum, I discovered that people in general have had good experiences with BNU. On the other hand I wasn't able to find many positive opinions on Tsinghua. Based on this, we decided to hedge our bets a little and decided to apply for BNU as well. Adrian, thanks for posting your first hand opinions about BNU as it may help us with our eventual decision!

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I would like to study outside of Beijing to avoid the construction and signs in English(because of the upcoming Olympics). I am planning to study at the Manda Center in Hangzhou. The program seems comparable to those in Beijing, but is much less expensive. However, I have not found any reviews on the school. Has anyone been there or heard anything about Hangzhou and the Manda Center?

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  • 1 year later...

so guys

whats the verdict on PRC study ??.......good bad or ugly ?

getting along and having fun the the lounge is not exactly gonna help matters really .

can anyone get back to topic and share their thoughts on PRCstudy ?


and do a comparison with similar institutions eg chinastudy abroad , tli , etc etc.

does PRCstudy have a branch in all those cities mentioned in their website ?

anyone ? thanks


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TBH I doubt it. I studied with PRC last year. The teachers are good, for the most part, but the organisation itself is shaky at the best of times. Staff turnover when I was there was enormous and the MD Vivian Pan is a nightmare.

As far as I know they are not official reps for any of the Universities they mentioned and don't really have any official ties with them. All they do is help you fill out they forms to get to the respective Uni.

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