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University's grad students no longer have to publish to earn their master's

By ZOU SHUO | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2020-08-07 08:50
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Communication University of China in Beijing will no longer require graduate students to publish research papers to obtain master's degrees as part of its reform of postgraduate education to cultivate more talent.

Instead, research-oriented grad students need to read more than 80 pieces of academic literature while application-oriented grads should read at least 60 pieces to obtain master's degrees, according to a notice issued on the university's website on Wednesday.

The school will test the students' understanding of basic academic literature as well as basic and cutting-edge research theories related to their research field. Those who fail three times will not be allowed to continue their studies, it said.

The university also plans to increase the minimum study period for doctoral students from three years to four years while the maximum period has already been shortened from eight years to six years starting next year, meaning doctoral students at the university will need to study for at least four years and at most six years to obtain their degrees, it said.

President Xi Jinping has called for greater efforts to cultivate a large amount of high-level talent with both integrity and capability to meet the developmental needs of the Party and the country.

In an instruction on the country's graduate education, Xi stressed the important role of graduate education in boosting innovation, furthering economic and social development, and modernizing the system and capacity for governance in China.

CUC became the latest Chinese university to scrap the requirement of paper publishing for postgraduate students to obtain degrees.

Tsinghua University in Beijing announced in April that publishing papers will no longer serve as the basic requirement for doctoral students to get their degrees; rather, the school will focus on the value and originality of their academic research.

In June, Beihang University in the capital also stopped setting a requirement on the exact number of papers doctoral students need to publish in order to graduate.

The policy changes provide an alternative to the publish-or-perish academic evaluation system in which students' graduation prospects and faculty promotions depend largely on the number of papers they can publish in high-ranking journals.

China's publication-oriented evaluation system originated in the late 1980s, when Nanjing University first introduced the Science Citation Index-one of the world's most selective citation databases for scientific literature-as a tool for evaluating the academic performance of Chinese scholars.

In February, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Technology jointly issued a guideline to stop universities' over-dependence on the SCI while evaluating the scientific research of teachers and students.

Universities are encouraged not to list publishing SCI papers as a requirement for students to earn degrees, and a sound assessment system should be developed, the guideline said.

Liu Haiming, a professor at Chongqing University, said the new policy actually makes graduation standards for students more rigorous, as academic ability-rather than paper-publishing ability-will now be the determining factor for whether a student qualifies for a degree.

Many students have chosen to pursue postgraduate studies not because they are interested in academic research, but as a stepping stone for better jobs, so it is important to implement stricter academic requirements to weed out low-quality students, he said.

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