The head of a university in central China was removed from his position after education officials discovered that he had spent more than 180 million yuan (about US $27 million) on one-time payments for teachers who were transferred to a university in the Philippines to get an “instant PhD” and were then rehired to enhance the ranking of the institution.
Twenty-two teachers from Shaoyang University in Hunan province were rehired after getting their PhDs at Adamson University in Manila. Most PhDs take at least four years to finish, but these teachers got theirs in only 28 months.
Peng was sacked from Shaoyang University on Sunday because of “illegal actions” in its talent strategy, according to the Hunan Provincial Education Department.
Shaoyang University became the center of a public debate last week after announcing that it had rehired the teachers. This raised questions about the validity of the degrees.
The curriculum that Peng offered was criticized for having a relatively short study term to acquire a PhD, in addition to the general impression that the institution was “obscure.” However, Adamson University is widely regarded as one of the best educational institutions in the Philippines.
It was also pointed out that the 850,000 yuan (US $126,000) compensation package given to each newly employed teacher appeared to conflict with the “real value” of the degrees they had earned.
Their PhDs in education served as a springboard for their re-employment in a variety of fields such as energy and sport, as well as business.
A week ago, the Hunan provincial administration said that it would examine the situation in light of mounting public pressure.
The Chinese education ministry said in November that it would “give a more careful assessment” of the degrees awarded by a number of international colleges, including the private university Adamson, which is situated in the Philippine capital of Manila.
When it comes to cultivating “instant PhDs” to boost their academic credentials, Chinese universities often work with foreign institutions to produce “instant PhDs,” according to Xiong Bingqi, head of Beijing’s 21st Century Education Research Institute.
He pointed out that for institutions like Shaoyang University, which are considered mid-tier in China, it is practical to encourage existing teachers to get a doctorate since it is difficult to attract newcomers who already have top degrees. “Gaining a PhD is normally time-consuming, taking four or five years regardless of if it is at a domestic or overseas university. Besides, some teachers would leave for better jobs elsewhere after getting the degree,” said Xiong. “Taking these factors into consideration, it can be a good idea for some universities to send their teaching staff to a low-ranking university overseas to gain a doctoral degree. The degree could be criticised as being of low quality, but that does not change the fact that it is a doctoral degree. Plus, most of the teachers would not jump ship after gaining the degree this way,” he explained.
According to Xiong, this would not only increase the university’s PhD ratio, but it would also make the institution more “international,” which might help it raise its rating. “But all these are for the purpose of gaining instant benefit instead of really improving the quality of faculty. So this is a ‘face project’ to seek quick success,” he said.
Featured image: A view of Shaoyang University, Hunan province, From Weibo