China will send more students and scholars to study abroad starting this year and enhance joint programmes with foreign universities, the Ministry of Education announced at a press conference Monday in Beijing.
Currently, the country sends about 2,700 government-funded students or scholars each year to 108 countries or regions around the world.
By 2007, more than 5,000 government-supported students and scholars will be sent abroad per year, said Cao Guoxing, director of the Department for International Co-operation and Exchanges.
Cao said his ministry will help finance educational departments in 12 relatively poor western regions, to select more students or scholars from those regions and send them abroad to cultivate specialized skills.
The ministry will also work with educational foundations in Germany, France and other countries, to assist overseas Chinese students and scholars make breakthroughs in cutting-edge scientific fields.
According to Cao, the country will see more than 38,000 doctorate students in the next three years. These students will be selected as senior visiting scholars to study or work in foreign countries, and are expected to work with top-notch partners in developed countries.
Peking University and Moscow University have started to jointly train doctorate students. Cao said more Chinese doctorate students will be sent to prestigious foreign universities to receive specialized training. At the same time, foreign doctorate students are welcome to China's famous universities.
Starting this year, the ministry will begin paying more attention to self-support students who go abroad, as many of those students have promoted scientific and educational exchanges between China and foreign countries. Previously, self-supported students were not valued as much as government-funded students.
Cao said his ministry set up scholarship for excellent self-supported students last year, in the United States, Japan, Britain, France and Germany.
This year, the scholarships will be expanded to more countries and students will get different amounts ranging from US$5,000, or US$7,000.
More than 700,000 government-funded and self-supported students studied abroad since 1978 when the country began to implement reform and opening-up policies.
More than 170,000 of them have returned and the other 530,000 are still working or studying abroad, according to the ministry's latest statistics.
Last year, the number of Chinese students going abroad dropped 6.3 per cent from 2002, as the SARS outbreak made foreign countries hesitate to receive Chinese students.
At the same time ministry tightened management of substandard intermediary service agencies and prevented some self-supported students from blindly rushing into unqualified and profit-driven foreign schools.
(China Daily February 17, 2004)