Private Colleges Lure Poorly Qualified Chinese Students

      April 05, 2011 13:28

      The number of Chinese students including ethnic Koreans has been rising since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992, topping 59,490 last year. That was a 50-fold increase over the last 10 years from 1,182 in 1999, and accounted for 70 percent of all 83,842 foreign students in the country.

      ◆ Hard-up Colleges

      The drastic increase in the number of Chinese students is partly due to the efforts of regional colleges that are desperately casting around for sources of income, with some of them facing closure due to a shortage of Korean students. That means a growing number of Chinese students here lack basic skills like fluency in the language.

      Without these Chinese students some colleges and universities would have to shut up shop. Some 1,027 Chinese students at Woosuk University in North Jeolla Province make up 10.1 percent of all 10,082 students. At Paichai University they account for 8.4 percent and at Cheongju University 8.2 percent.

      One college official said, "Private colleges rely on tuition fees for 70 percent of their revenues, so the more financially unstable they are, the more they are affected by dwindling student numbers."

      ◆ Loose Admissions Policies

      Many Chinese students do not work very hard to keep up grades because they know how much the schools depend on them. Asked why they chose Korea, many say because admission and getting a degree is easy, or because they want entry visas.

      A Chinese student (23) at Kyunghee University said, "I didn't get good enough marks for any major universities in Beijing or Shanghai, so I came here." Another Chinese student at another private university said, "Tuition at American universities is expensive and exams in the U.S. are difficult. I chose a Korean university because tuition here is cheap and admissions aren't difficult either."

      Rumor has it that Chinese students can get into some regional Korean schools just by paying W500,000 (US$1=W1,088) through local student-service agencies. But many of them lack basic English or Korean.

      Bae Deuk-ryul, the director of the International Education Center at Chungbuk National University, said, "It seems that fewer than 30 percent of Chinese students currently in Korea are here to continue their studies." The rest seem to regard a student visa as a stepping stone to finding work here.

      ◆ 12% of Chinese Students in Korea Staying on Illegally

      63,216 Chinese people including ethnic Koreans were staying in Korea on a student visa as of February, the Ministry of Justice said Sunday. The ministry believes that 7,435, or 11.8 percent of them have dropped out of university and are staying on illegally, a much higher proportion than among Mongolians (4.5 percent) and Vietnamese (9.5 percent).

      Universities usually strike underachieving foreign students from the register if they fail for two consecutive semesters, frequently miss classes, misbehave or earn poor grades.

      But they often just transfer to another university in Korea. A Chungbuk National University official said, "When these students are drop out of school, their visa becomes automatically void and they have to return to their country. But some universities accept them even they don't have a visa as long as they pay the tuition fees, so many of these students stay on and eventually get jobs illegally."

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