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70 Percent of Students
Want to Go Abroad
It is spring again. While more than 1.4 million college graduates are trying their luck at many job markets with their innovative self-promotion ideas, in sharp contrast a 2002 graduate surnamed Yang from Peking University has not approached the job market at all this year. Instead, he strolls along Weiming Lake on campus dreaming of applying for a place in a university of the United States.

In reality, Yang is typical of a large number of students in Tsinghua and Peking universities. A survey among the five prestigious universities in Beijing shows that students intending to go abroad make up over 70 percent of all the students involved in the survey. According to some sources, 790 graduates from Peking University went abroad immediately after graduation in 1999, over 800 in 2000, and around 950 for the year 2001, approaching 30 percent of all 2001graduates. It is estimated that the number of students going abroad will continue to increase this year.

At Tsinghua University, this tendency is more obvious. According to the person concerned, there were about 760 Tsinghua graduates applying for overseas studies in 1998; this number amounted to 960 in 1999 and to 1120 in 2000. In 2001, the number again topped 1,000.

The ratio of students of some majors going abroad is even higher. In 2001, in Peking University, 28 out of 32 graduates majoring in physics and Chemistry went abroad directly after their graduation; at the same time, 13 out of 15 macromolecule chemistry and physics graduates went abroad, with the ratio approaching 90 percent. It is reported that among those high-tech majors from Peking University, 76 percent of the students have gone to the United States, with 82 percent from Tsinghua University.

Going abroad has become many college students’ natural choice after their graduation. Nowadays, here goes a saying on many campuses, "College life cannot be fulfilled without taking GRE (Graduate Record Examination) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)." Since GRE and TOEFL scores are a must for students to apply for admissions into foreign universities, taking TOEFL and GRE has become many college students’ main task during their college life.

According to Li Guozhong, director with Employment Direction Center of Peking University, the continuous increase in the number of going-abroad graduates is a common problem for many key universities. How to attract more excellent college graduates to stay at home has become a difficult and important problem to be tackled soon.

Known for their top-ranking students, faculty and teaching quality, Peking University and Tsinghua University have fostered many excellent students over years. However, at the same time, a large number of students from both of these universities are likely to go abroad for their further studies soon after their graduation. Then will these students come back in the future?

Liang Feng, a student from the Electric Power and Electricity Department of Tsinghua University said that he would come back to China after he finishes his overseas study. "I cannot give my whole life to a foreign country," he said. However, as for Yang Hongwei from Peking University, going abroad just means a no-returning journey. "If I can go abroad, I never plan to come back. Looking back into the past, none of those students with my major ever came back."

Yang Hongwei’s major is video frequency technology, a highly talent-demanded information technology in China. So far, there are only a few institutes engaged in its research and development, including Peking University, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Microsoft Research Institute.

According to some statistic, from 1978 to 1997, about 300,000 people went abroad for studies, with self-funding students taking up 50 percent of the total. However, during the past twenty years, only less than one third of these people came back, and for those self-funding students, the comeback only took up 4 percent of the whole. Since those students from Tsinghua University and Peking University who mainly go abroad via scholarships provided by the foreign universities are often defined as self-funding students, then, most of these talents are still abroad, which has become many people’s top concern regarding brain drain.

Zhu Qingshi, president of University of Science & Technology of China, also an academician with Chinese Academy of Sciences gave a very visualized example in this regard. "The trend of going abroad among many college students nowadays is very much like trees having fruits abroad after growing up at home. In primary schools, secondary schools and colleges, our country invested a lot of money and energy in cultivating students, but when it comes to the time when the country needs their contributions, they all go abroad."

Chen Ji, director of the Service Center for Students’ Employment at Tsinghua University admit frankly that with so many excellent and talented students going abroad directly after graduation, China is indeed suffering a big loss in her own talent pool.

However, despite the serious brain drain, Chen Li also sees a positive aspect hiding behind this popular trend of going abroad. "Since China now is in great deficiency of high-tech talents as well as internationalized talents, these overseas students, to some extent, are building up a big potential talent pool for China’s future. The key point lies in whether these students can be attracted back home for their contributions."

"A talent back from abroad can help train a group and promote the development of an industry." Peng Dingwu, the manager of Human Resources Department of Julong Corp., showed his disagreement with the claimed equivalent relation between "going abroad" and "talent loss" by some people. From his point of view, China’s persistent strive for its internationalization actually finds its prime expression in many students’ desire to go abroad for studies. Recently, China witnessed a rapid development in the field of information technology, Internet techniques and Biotech, as well as the fast growth of big four national telecommunication giants, namely Julong, Datang, Zhongxing and Huawei. Actually, all these developments cannot be realized without the brilliant contributions of those who had studied abroad.”

Wang Tongxun, vice president of the Research Institute of Human Resources, is in favor of Peng Dingwu’s opinion. This expert in talent research thinks that the basic Chinese policy concerning overseas studies is to support overseas studies, encourage coming back and give freedom for going and returning. In the past 20 years, China benefited a lot from this policy. At some prestigious universities like Peking University and Tsinghua University, many graduates’ decision to go abroad directly after graduation is also in accordance with this policy. "In terms of short term, maybe this is a kind of brain drain; but from a far-reaching point of view, what we will gain will definitely overweight what we have lost. It is believed that no matter where they are, they are Chinese, and they will serve their own motherland sooner or later," said Wang Tongxun.

(新华社 [Xinhua News Agency] May 4, 2002, translated by Feng Shu for china.org.cn)

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