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Officials Sent for MPA Program

Some fifty senior officials of Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province, are departing Monday for the United States for a graduate program on public administration.

They set off on their journey to Georgia's Kennesaw State University in the United States Monday to begin year-long master's degrees in public administration.

It is the second time the local government has sent officials abroad to earn an MPA (master of public administration). The first group of 24 officials returned last week with master's degrees, most excelling in their classes.

Those officials in middle-level administrative positions were selected from a mass of candidates who must pass the exam of the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) and multi-level assessment concerning political calibre, overall behavior and development potential.

"We are badly in need of officials adept at foreign languages, international rules and regulations and management as Hangzhou is determined to be an international tourism city," said Wang Guoping, Party secretary of Hangzhou.

Officials returning from abroad are expected to inject vigor and vitality into the government, bring what they have learned into their administrative work, Wang said.

"We served as more than foreign students but also emissaries of China in the United States," said Yuan Xiaomin, one of the officials returning from abroad.

The Chinese officials' life was described as "a cup of tea and a piece of newspaper for a working day" while Chinese officials' great diligence in their studies helped change some American's opinions, Yuan added.

The officials' MPA curriculum consists of seven core courses, a concentration of four courses, and a professional exercise, such as fundamentals of public administration and public service, public organization theory and human resource management.

According to an official in Hangzhou who refused to be named, the cost of an official attaining a master's degree in public administration could reach 200,000 yuan (US$24,000) and all the fees are allocated by the local government.

Some experts doubt if such a move would really improve officials' performance and enhance the government's management and efficiency.

"Such a program will help achieve results, however, we have a high expectation as huge sums have been invested in this project," said Chen Guoquan, professor from the MPA Education Center of Zhejiang University.

People will wait to see if the project fulfils its promise, Chen added.

(China Daily September 20, 2004)

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