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Gov't Website Rates Education Intermediaries

The Ministry of Education has set up a website to publicize both excellent and substandard intermediary agencies that help self-supporting students go abroad to study.

The website, www.jsj.edu.cn, will list Chinese intermediary agencies that are officially authorized by provincial and municipal-level education departments and also list qualified foreign schools that receive Chinese students, said a ministry spokesman, who did not give a specific timetable for when this would happen.

Any illegal or misleading activities by intermediary agencies will be disclosed through the website and the media, said the spokesman, who refused to be named.

The move aims to improve the efficiency of intermediary agencies as an increasing number of self-funding Chinese students go abroad, with nearly 70 per cent of them using intermediary agencies.

China now has 270 authorized intermediary agencies, which employ nearly 10,000 staff. Most of the agencies provide a good service but some, driven by profits, have violated the rules, such as by issuing misleading advertisements and forging documents.

The Beijing Yingzhiye Cultural Exchange Co, for example, forged 35 stamps of the Communist Party Central Committee School, banks, public security and other government departments in May to recruit students from Weihai in East China's Shandong Province. The company has been suspended by the Beijing Education Committee.

The Ministry of Education suggested that self-supporting students think carefully when choosing overseas schools because some foreign schools do not issue academic degrees after students graduate.

The so-called Finance University of Switzerland, a private school that is not recognized by the Swiss Government and that cannot issue higher degrees, started to recruit Chinese students in Shanghai this year. The school misled potential students with an advertisement that said it can issue master's degrees in finance.

It even forged certificates purporting to be recognized by the Chinese Embassy in Switzerland.

The ministry will set up an official centre to evaluate the quality of overseas educational institutions. The centre will determine whether the institutions have been legally established and what kind of academic degrees they can issue.

Service standards will also be established to further discipline intermediary agencies and get them to improve their work.

China has sent 580,000 self-supporting and government-funded students to study abroad since the country started to implement its reform and opening-up policies in 1978. More than 160,000 of them have returned and the remaining 420,000 are still studying or working abroad.

(China Daily July 28, 2003)

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