News related to the quality of Chinese teachers is causing public concern. Many teachers achieved their doctorate in South Korean universities, which are considered low ranking and have a similar reputation. One claimed they could help Chinese doctoral students complete a 1-semester course in just 12 days. This sparked controversy about whether South Korea has become China’s degree factory.

This year, Xingtai College in Hebei published a recruitment list of 13 PhDs from Youshi, Jeonju, and Wonkwang University in Korea. They were former teachers at Xingtai who went abroad to acquire a higher degree and then returned to apply for jobs.

The doctoral program at Youshi University lasts 2.5 years and requires students to study for only two months in the summer and winter semesters. To apply, there are no entrance exams or language requirements. This is considered a quick Ph.D. scheme. Students only need to complete the course and pass the dissertation to obtain a certificate. 

Shen Yi, one of the doctoral students, said Korea has many schools but a small population. These unknown institutions were forced to “sell” degrees to continue operating. They even offer Chinese language courses to attract students and deliberately leak questions before exams to guarantee a passing rate.

Korean Ministry of Education reported, that 1,906 Chinese students studied for a doctoral degree in 2013, and by 2018, this number had doubled. In 2021, 8,821 Chinese students were pursuing doctorates in South Korea, and most of them were Chinese university teachers with master’s degrees.

Chinese universities have an incentive to send their staff to South Korea for higher education. They want to increase the proportion of doctoral degrees among their teachers, which will bring reputation and ranking to the university. This is also mandatory for them to be upgraded to “master’s degree authorizing units” or from colleges to universities.

According to the “Basic Requirements for Degree Authorization Review Application (2020)” issued by the Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council, in addition to arts and sports colleges and universities, among the basic requirements for new master’s degree-granting institutions, the proportion of full-time teachers with doctoral degrees must not be less than 25%.

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