China’s internet erupts over Monash University’s drunk officials quiz question

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Monash University’s reputation in the lucrative Chinese student market has taken a battering after an online exam for business students claimed it was widely said Chinese government officials only tell the truth when they are drunk.

Almost half a million Chinese social media users have reacted to a Chinese news report of the incident over the weekend.

Chinese students in the Monash business school had complained about the quiz, which posed the multiple choice question: “There is a common saying in China that government officials only speak the truth when:”.

A lecturer has been suspended after the quiz gave the correct answer “d) They are drunk or careless”.

Monash has 4400 Chinese undergraduate students. A university spokesman said it had received complaints from students about “inappropriate course content in a unit of study within the Faculty of Business and Economics”.

“The faculty took down this material from its online course site while a review is conducted, and informed students it was taking this action.”

The university was reviewing all course materials and texts in the subject.

“The lecturer has been suspended while the review is taking place,” he said.

The incident comes as a major survey of Chinese students shows Australia is becoming more popular as the third-ranked destination for overseas study.

Almost one in four students planning to study overseas said they wanted to study at an Australian university, the Kantar Milward Brown research showed. This is an increase from one in five a year ago.

But the survey also uncovered problems, with a “severe imbalance” in the large number of Chinese students (33 per cent) wanting to study business.

It was also difficult for the overseas graduates to find jobs upon return to China.

Over 80 per cent of returnees were underemployed with low job satisfaction, the research conducted for New Oriental Vision Overseas found.

In 2016, a record 540,000 Chinese students went abroad for study, with most saying they wanted to expand their “international vision”.

When choosing a country, education level (51 per cent), “comprehensive national power” (42 per cent), and national culture (40 per cent) were the biggest factors.

Almost three-quarters (73 per cent) intend to return to China to work, either upon graduation (23 per cent), or after a stint working abroad (50 per cent).

But the returnees surveyed felt they were disadvantaged in finding a job in China because they were too late for the campus recruitment drives and didn’t understand Chinese business needs.

Only private Chinese companies showed interest in hiring overseas graduates.

Dr Amanda Barry, director of the Australian National University’s China liaison office, said the lion’s share of Chinese students at ANU were enrolled in its business school, as was the case for most Australian universities.

Her office was recently established to try and broaden the Chinese student intake, and attract engineering and science students.

“In the job market, those sectors in China are dominated by state-owned enterprises, so the opportunity cost of students studying abroad and losing their home network are very real,” she said.

She contrasted this to students studying business who want to work for a foreign company when they come back to China.

The difficulties of overseas students finding work when they return was an important issue that needed to be addressed by Australian universities, she said.

“Down the track, the student numbers may soften if they spend money on degrees and don’t get the jobs the hoped for,” she said.

By Kirsty Needham
Sydney Morning Herald

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