BEIJING — The Chinese government has made a "preliminary decision" to reduce the number of graduate students sent for study abroad, an official newspaper reported Saturday.
In place of the young graduate students, an increased number of older scholars will be sent overseas for shorter visits on non-degree programs and exchanges, according to He Dongchang, vice minister of the State Education Commission, who was quoted by the China Daily. These older scholars are expected to make more rapid contributions to academic and economic development in China, He said.
He also said that students sent abroad should be directed into study of subjects applicable to China's modernization effort.
The official's comments appeared to apply primarily to state-sponsored students and scholars. Chinese government agencies and institutions have been sending about 3,000 students abroad annually. Much larger numbers make their own arrangements to study abroad.
In the past decade, about 50,000 students and scholars have gone to the United States, while no more than about 10,000 have returned to China. The low rate of return has caused problems for China and for today's prospective students.
Chinese institutions often suffer a net loss of talent as their brightest people extend their stays abroad.
Students hoping to go abroad--especially those who are not state sponsored--often have their plans collapse at the last minute when they are refused U.S. visas. This is because American law requires U.S. embassies and consulates to deny student visas to anyone suspected of wanting to become an immigrant.
The record of Chinese staying on in the United States has created a presumption that students who are young and single will not want to return to China.
Vice Minister He said that progress in China's educational system over the past decade should enable it to train larger numbers of graduate students domestically.
He acknowledged, however, that without improvements in the pay and living standards of intellectuals, it is difficult to encourage students to enter graduate school, or to attract students abroad to return.
He also indicated that Chinese diplomatic missions may step up their efforts to influence Chinese students, with the aim of encouraging them to return to China.
"He proposed," the China Daily reported, "that patient and painstaking ideological work be carried out among Chinese students overseas to inspire their patriotic enthusiasm."