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Chinese government educational authorities provide accreditation of diplomas or degrees issued by overseas universities or colleges on students’ application basis. The Chinese Service Centre for Scholarly Exchange (“CSCSE”) (http://www.cscse.cn/), an institution under the Ministry of Education of China, is the only official organization that provides credential evaluation and accreditation services on the overseas diplomas or degrees in China.
Normally, it is procedural for the students who actually study abroad or study under an approved Sino-foreign cooperation program in China to apply to CSCSE for accreditation and CSCSE will take into account the overseas residence time for study during the accreditation and evaluation of overseas diplomas or degrees. Considering that many Chinese students are unable to return to overseas universities or colleges due to travel or immigration restrictions resulting from COVID-19 pandemic, on April 3, 2020, CSCSE issued a statement, clarifying that online courses taken partially due to the inability to attend campus as a result of COVID-19 pandemic travel or immigration restrictions, which leads to the lack of overseas residence time, will not negatively influence the accreditation results.
However, some of the overseas colleges and universities and brokers, citing COVID-19 pandemic concerns as an excuse, keep launching various online courses recruiting Chinese students to study in such online courses, which, in the opinion of CSCSE, in nature is selling diplomas or degrees for purpose of making profits and damaging Chinese students’ interests. On March 19, 2021, CSCSE issued a supplementary statement (“Supplementary Statement 1”), clarifying that (i) it will continue to accredit overseas diplomas and degrees that the Chinese students have obtained after they meet the awarding requirements, even if they are forced by COVID-19 pandemic to complete some or all of their courses online; and (ii) it will not accredit any diploma or degree issued under those online courses that overseas colleges or universities have launched utilizing COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse but for making profits purpose.
Given those online courses for making profits only are spreading but impact of COVID-19 pandemic on “overseas residence time for study” is gradually diminishing along with reopening of immigration in many countries, CSCSE further issued a supplementary statement (the “Supplementary Statement 2”) on March 24, 2022 and its interpretation on March 25, 2022, highlighting again that (i) diplomas and degrees issued under cross-border distance courses cannot receive accreditation by CSCSE; and (ii) cross-border distance courses refer to online courses launched by overseas universities and colleges as their normal education activities rather than those which are transplanted from original face-to-face courses forced by COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, if a Chinese student cannot participate in face-to-face learning due to COVID-19 pandemic but selects to study his/her courses online with the permission from his/her university or college during the COVID-19 pandemic, his/her diploma and degree issued under such courses can be accredited by CSCSE.
The most recent Supplementary Statement 2 gives relatively clear criterion that can measure those online courses unacceptable to CSCSE. It underscores CSCSE’s long-term policy that it will not accredit overseas diplomas or degrees obtained without real or sufficient “overseas residence time for study”.