Pakistan student Orphir was expelled from school on March 17th, 2011.
Before that he was a sophomore studying the MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine / Bachelor of Surgery) programme in Changsha Medical University, a privately-run college in Hunan province. The school informed that he was dismissed for failing 8 courses and frequently breaking the school rules, since he incited other students to transfer and put in for a transfer without permission.
Orphir considered the statement as excuse. “The real reason is that they expelled me as a warning to other international students, so that they dare not ask for their rights.” Orphir said.
In fact, a good few international students have ever planted ideas of transferring to other universities as they were discontented with school teaching and management. Much more importantly, the Ministry of Education of PRC never approved Changsha Medical University as qualified university to enroll these international students, according to the guideline “Provisional Regulation on Quality Control Standard of English-Taught Medical Undergraduate Education for International Students in China” issued in 2007. Orphir and his classmates were misled by education agents to study in China.
Based on the investigation by Southern Weekly, except for Changsha Medical University, at least 6 universities have enrolled international students to English-taught MBBS program, but they were not in the list of qualified universities either.
An anonymous insider commented that since English-taught MBBS programmes in these universities are not in conformity with their promotional information and are not recognized by official educational accrediting bodies in China, India and other countries, such programmes could be called “diploma mills”, although the universities themselves are qualified.
Deception after deception
Hailing from Rawalpindi, a northeastern city of Pakistan, Orphir has aimed to be a doctor since his childhood. He finally found the chance, when he read the advertisement of an education agent saying that “Want to take medical course in China? We provide the most economical MBBS programme”. The advertisement was published in the country’s most popular Urdu newspaper The Daily Jang in Oct 2009.
Such commercials are not rare. It becomes trendy for Pakistan and Indian students to pursue MBBS in China. “We even spend less in China than in Pakistan for study.” Orphir said.
According to data released by the Ministry of Education, medicine is the second most popular major chosen by international students coming to China, following language learning programme. The number of international medical students is increasing year by year. The phenomenon even drew Indian media’s attention. India Times covered a report “Doctors, Made in China” telling the story about it. That report also concerned about the quality of education, worrying that some schools would lower the threshold of admission and impair the quality.
Unfortunately, all Orphir’s experience has corroborated the doubt. He applied to the education agent called NRZ International Consultant in Pakistan, and received an offer from Changsha Medical University unconditionally on the next day. He was not required to prepare any certificate of Chinese or English proficiency, although he was enrolled by an English-taught programme.
Looking back to this, Orphir said he was deeply hurt by the agent’s concealment and deception. For example, the agent didn’t tell him that Changsha Medical University is a non-governmental school. And the advertisement even noted that it took only three hours to drive from Changsha to Hong Kong, which should be at least ten hours actually.
Not only that, Orphir was deluded by the key fact that the school was ineligible to enroll international students for MBBS study.
As early as 2007, the Ministry of Education laid down regulation to rectify the messed situation of MBBS programme management at universities. Despite that the provincial department of education originally should have right to approve the qualification, but the ministry directly restricted scale of enrollment and identified 30 universities to admit international students for English-taught MBBS programme instead. The number has risen to 49 in 2011. Changsha Medical University is not on the list of any year.
Ms. Yang, Section Chief of International Exchanges Division in Changsha Medical University said the school was “qualified” to enroll international students with the approval of the Department of Education in Hunan Province (which in fact has no authority to approve MBBS programmes).
What’s more, she added, the MBBS programme was Chinese-taught. “But considering the international students, it is impossible that all courses are taught in Chinese.”
However, international students in Changsha Medical University told Southern Weekly that “all the medical courses are taught totally in English.”
In accordance with regulation by Ministry of Education, universities not on the list should not recruit international students to MBBS programme, but they could have Chinese-taught programme and take in international medical students. In addition, some vague wordings such as “Bilingual teaching” are forbidden in school promotion.
Meanwhile, taking advantage of equivocal statements, a fair number of education agents in Pakistan solicit students openly to MBBS programme in unqualified schools like Changsha Medical University. International students are consequently deceived as unacquainted with education policies in China.
The agent deceived Orphir as well. Orphir even didn’t know that he was in the first batch of Pakistan students to Changsha Medical University until he entered school. Before coming to China, Orphir once called a Pakistan student at school, introduced by the agent. He told Orphir, “I’m a senior here. The school is very good.” When Orphir met that “senior” in Changsha, he found that the “senior” was his classmate as a fact, who merely came earlier a few days.
Orphir asked him angrily, “Why did you lie to me?” “If not, how could you come?” Orphir’s classmate answered, on the side of agent.
A barrage of absurd stories
A barrage of absurd things happened to Orphir after he got the “offer”.
For example, Orphir should begin his programme in September 2009. However, the formalities like visa process postponed his schedule. Orphir arrived at Changsha on January 1st 2010 when he missed most courses in the semester, but the agent told him it was all right. In the end, Orphir had to take final exams after few classes and failed two courses out of four.
One of his classmates registered even later than Orphir. And lots of international students arrived in November or December.
After registration, Orphir was required to pay 4600 dollars as one-year expense, “But it should be 2000 dollars as the advertisement noted. ”Orphir complained, because he was attracted by the low expense at first. But now he had to pay more than doubled.
The Pakistan agent Raheel Tariq collected 4600 dollars expense directly. Indications point out that International Exchanges Division of Changsha Medical University is keeping a closer relation with Raheel than ordinary education agent. Raheel is called “coordinator” in English-version website of the university. (But his name and title has been deleted from the website after the Chinese version of this report published.)
Some student once read the agreement between the university and Raheel, saying that the university would pay 10% of the tuition as commission to Raheel.
In fact, most schools with illegal enrollment rely much on foreign education agents. Director of General Office in Luzhou Medical College ever wrote in a published paper, “Foreign education agents could assist to international students’ teaching and management.” “It is very necessary and helpful.”
The condition of teaching quality seemed worrying as well. Orphir memorized that a Chinese lady “Dr. Sunny” taught him Physiology in the second semester. Then he found that the courses of Microbiology, Parasitology, Immunology and Clinical Anatomy were also taught by Dr. Sunny in the third semester. The matter has not finished yet. In the fourth semester, Dr. Sunny appeared again in the class of Pathology, and she would teach Pathophysiology in following days. In other word, there was only one teacher, who taught 7 major subjects of Clinical Medicine MBBS and instructed laboratory practice of all these subjects at the same time.
“They just toy with our future!” Orphir said.
Such situation was denied by Ms. Yang, Section Chief of International Exchanges Division in Changsha Medical University, but she refused to provide a name list of teachers in MBBS programme.
Orphir therefore hoped to transfer to another university, out of much discontent against the school. He applied for admission to Central South University, which is approved by the Ministry of Education. But for his transfer application without permission, Changsha Medical University gave Orphir disciplinary probation. After that, Orphir had to write a statement promising he wouldn’t transfer any more.
In the third semester, when Orphir’s father stayed in hospital to cure diabetes, Orphir asked for leave to take care of his father in Pakistan. He returned to Changsha in November 2010 and continued study. Nevertheless when Orphir finished final exams, teachers refused to mark his exam papers for the reason that Orphir was absent for a long time. Orphir failed those courses in the third semester.
After expelling Orphir, the school convened a meeting of all the international students and declared, “Orphir will not be the last one to be expelled.” Ms. Yang, Section Chief of International Exchanges Division in Changsha Medical University told Southern Weekly, “There are some troubles in managing these Pakistan students. It is not a punishment to expel Orphir but means to teach other students.”
Vacancy of supervision
Orphir’s case is not the only one. A good lot of international students who studied the illegal MBBS programme in China have complained to China’s University and College Admission System, an officially recognized organization. “Some of them found that the diploma was not approbated in their countries. Some others realized that their schools were ineligible to have MBBS programme before graduation. They usually asked us for help to transfer, but it is quite difficult in China.” Consultant of CUCAS Ms Liu said.
Southern Weekly called some universities with MBBS programme in the name of enquiring related information. It revealed that several unqualified universities have enrolled international medical students since 2007, like Hebei North University, Jinggangshan University, Yichun University, North China Coal Medical University, Changjiang University, Luzhou Medical College and so on. The number of enrollment varied from tens to hundreds in each school every year. The illegal enrollment not only brings tidy economic profits but also promotes “international brand” of these schools.
Orphir once asked the agent whether the diploma would be recognized in Pakistan, and got a reply saying “Yes because it is recognized by World Health Organization (WHO).”
However, WHO reminds in its official website that “the WHO has no authority to grant any form of recognition or accreditation to schools of medicine or other training institutions. Such a procedure remains the exclusive prerogative of the national government concerned.”
The list of universities to have MBBS programme approved by Ministry of Education would be sent to embassies or consulates every year. Since 2007, Medical Council of India announced that students could only enter eligible universities in accordance with the list provided by Chinese government.
Meanwhile, most countries like Pakistan haven’t enacted similar regulation, which cause the ineligible MBBS programme recruited many Pakistan students. Besides, a few students come from Cameroon, Sudan, Burundi, Afghanistan and other Asian and African states.
“Beyond all doubt, they are vulnerable groups in China.” Head of CUCAS Zheng Tianying said. “Coming from developing countries, they can hardly bear the expenses in China. Even if they found it a trap, seldom could solve the problem.”
Nowadays in China, there is a special organization held by education departments to identify the qualification of foreign universities for Chinese students. But on the other hand, supervision on managing international students in China still has much vacancy. Embassies and consultants haven’t taken the responsibility to verify whether the schools or the programmes are approved by Ministry of Education.
Orphir finally went back to Pakistan because his visa had been canceled after expelled. He felt unwilling to leave. But Orphir comforted himself, “I’m lucky to be expelled actually. Otherwise who knows what diploma I would get if I stayed here for 3 more years.”
“China is great and Chinese people are nice. I wish to come back.” Orphir said, “But I will never ask help for deceitful agent, and will never enter such school.”(Originally printed in Southern Weekly [in Chinese], March 31st, 2011. Written by Fang Kecheng, translated by Rita Wu.)