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Domestic universities still looking abroad for talent, experts say

By Zou Shuo | China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-16 09:19

Though a growing number of employers are giving less weight to academic qualifications gained overseas, universities and research institutes in China still use foreign degrees as the basic threshold for talent selection.

When assessing potential lecturers, Chinese universities usually list a doctorate from a well-known foreign university as the basic requirement. However, candidates with doctorates from domestic institutions are often required to have at least three years of overseas research experience in addition to their qualifications.

A number of research institutions even claim to exclusively hire candidates who have studied and worked overseas.

Wang Luyao, a doctoral student in Russian literature, disagrees with "diploma discrimination".

"No matter how many research papers I publish after graduation, I will only be able to apply for teaching positions at less-famous universities in second-or third-tier cities, because I did not study overseas," she said. "It's unfair."

She added that higher education and research institutions should have enough confidence in China's education system to provide equal treatment for academics with doctorates from domestic schools.

Wang Jianyu, director of the Shanghai branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said academic talent should be evaluated by ability rather than whether a candidate gained a doctorate overseas.

Chinese graduates of foreign schools renowned for strong academic and research capabilities will inevitably receive preferential treatment. Despite that, it is unreasonable for research institutes to regard a high ratio of overseas returnees as a key indicator of a successful talent introduction system, he said.

Schools in China usually attract graduates of foreign universities by offering bonuses, such as professional and academic titles, abundant research funding, competitive salaries and housing subsidies, he added.

"In Shanghai, research funding and subsidies usually amount to millions of yuan, but holders of domestic doctorates don't enjoy those benefits," he said.

He referred to the case of Zhang Liang, an associate research fellow at the institute, as an example of discrimination against domestically educated academics.

Wang Jianyu described Zhang as the "pillar" behind the Quantum experiments at the Space Scale program, which launched MOZI, the world's first quantum satellite, in 2016.

Despite that achievement, as a "reward", the Shanghai government only granted Zhang research funding of 150,000 yuan ($24,000), and declined to promote him to the post of research fellow at the institute.

"If Zhang had a background in overseas education and research, he would have received greater rewards, both academically and financially," Wang Jianyu said.

Zhang himself believes the evaluation of academic talent should focus on individuals' abilities, irrespective of whether they have an overseas education and research background.

In the past, China's scientific research capabilities lagged far behind those of developed countries, which made graduates with overseas educations and research backgrounds highly attractive to domestic universities and research institutes, he said.

However, in recent years, the quality of higher education and research in China have improved rapidly, so academic talent must be evaluated via more objective and reasonable criteria, he added.

Zhou Wenting in Shanghai contributed to this story.


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