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Education officials in central China sacked a university’s dean for shelling out more than 180 million yuan ($27 million) on one-time payments for instructors who were sent to a university in the Philippines and acquired “instant PhDs” before being rehired to raise the school’s standing.

Peng Xilin, the party secretary of Shaoyang University in Hunan province, rehired 22 teachers who had attended Adamson University in Manila and had graduated with PhDs in just 28 months, despite the fact that most PhDs require at least four years to complete.

The Hunan Provincial Education Department responded to massive public criticism on Sunday by claiming that Shaoyang University had used “illegal techniques” in its talent strategy and that Peng was let go for making decisions that were “unscientific” and “imprecise” at work.

Following a public employment statement last week that indicated it had rehired the teachers and cast doubt on the validity of the degrees, Shaoyang University found itself at the center of controversy.

Peng’s curriculum came under fire for the abnormally short time required to earn a PhD and for creating the impression that the university was “obscure.” However, Adamson University is regarded as one of the best universities in the Philippines.

The hefty compensation package of 850,000 yuan (US$126,000) for each newly rehired teacher was also a source of criticism, as some felt it was out of line with the “true value” of their degrees.

All of the rehired professors had doctorates in education, but they were assigned to positions in a variety of disciplines, including energy, sports, and economics.

Prior to announcing Peng’s recent dismissal, the Hunan province administration declared last week that it will look into the situation due to mounting public criticism.

The Chinese education ministry promised to “provide a more careful review” of the diplomas from a number of foreign universities last November, including the private university Adamson, which is based in Manila.

According to Xiong Bingqi, head of the 21st Century Education Research Institute in Beijing, it is common for Chinese colleges to collaborate with an international university to foster “instant PhDs” in order to strengthen their credentials.

It is sensible to encourage present professors to pursue a doctorate at mid-tier Chinese universities like Shaoyang University because it is challenging to bring in newcomers with top degrees, the speaker said.

No matter if it is at a domestic or foreign university, getting a PhD typically takes four or five years. Moreover, after receiving their degrees, some teachers would relocate in search of better employment, according to Xiong.

“With these variables in mind, sending teaching staff members to a foreign, lower-ranked university for a doctoral degree may be a smart move for some colleges. The fact that the degree is a doctorate does not change notwithstanding criticism that it is of low quality. Additionally, most teachers wouldn’t leave their posts after earning their degrees in this manner, he added.

This not only benefits the university by raising the percentage of PhD-holding faculty, but it also broadens the school’s “international” perspective, which could boost its standing, according to Xiong.

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