• A Chinese student waves the national flag during a graduation ceremony in an American university.

A Chinese student waves the national flag during a graduation ceremony in an American university. (Photo : www.scmp.com)

Majority or 60.6 percent of Chinese students study abroad to obtain a diploma from foreign schools and improve their social status, according to a recent online survey conducted by China Youth Daily.

The survey indicated the other factors that drive students to study abroad. At least 46.5 percent said that Chinese students view overseas education as a way to gain advantages in employment, while only 42.8 percent said they study abroad to get a better education.

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Other factors were also cited in the survey, in which 38.5 percent said that overseas education serves as an eye-opener, 29 percent did it to seek independence from parents, and 28.4 percent said studying abroad helps them avoid the pressures of China's examination. Another 22.8 percent said they simply study abroad without any clear goals.

At least 1,621 respondents participated in the online survey, where 24.6 percent are students and 54.4 percent parents.

Most of the respondents believe that "diploma mills" exists globally, as the survey also showed 64.7 percent of respondents think there are incompetent schools abroad.

The survey cited the three major characteristics of "diploma mills," which include low entry thresholds (64 percent), selling diplomas for money (60.9 percent) and diplomas not publicly recognized (48.9 percent).

Diploma-mill schools were also characterized by the following qualities as rated by the respondents: school promotion by commercial means (40.8 percent), having names similar to world-renowned universities (39.9 percent), unqualified teaching staff (30.6 percent) and a shortage of teachers (12.7 percent).

The survey further indicated that 57.9 percent of respondents said those who fall victim to "diploma mills" usually just want to study abroad to improve their social status and cared very little about what they learn; 53.2 percent said both students and parents find it hard to get reliable knowledge about the qualifications offered at foreign universities; 42.7 percent said some people simply prefer foreign education and related diplomas; 38.6 percent said they cannot tell whether a university is a "diploma mill" or not; and 23.4 percent said Chinese authorities have failed to provide timely and accurate information to warn them of foreign "diploma mills."

Students and parents who were surveyed also presented some solution on how to avoid the pitfalls of overseas education: 59.9 percent urged the authorities to set up a pre-warning system and regularly blacklist foreign "diploma mills," 46.1 percent called for a tougher crackdown on illegal overseas education service agencies, and 38.4 percent expected that authorities would issue a list of recognized foreign universities and contact details.

At least 59 percent of those surveyed advised both parents and students to do earnest research on overseas universities, while 55 percent said some Chinese students would be better off if they stop their adulation of foreign diploma.