new nameUniversities Need Real Achievements to Gain Recognition

Media reports that Beijing Second Foreign Languages Institute may be changing its name to Tourism University have stirred debate recently. Whether or not the reports are true, the recent obsession of universities in China with name changes has attracted much attention and discussion. A rough estimated once indicated that according to official school website announcements, in the eight years since 2004, more than 300 schools have changed their names. So universities are “the places of deepest research and study” in name only, and have no inherent connection to high levels of knowledge and learning.  Anyway, especially for schools with long histories, a name carries a tradition, and represents its core and internal culture and spirit. If a school changes its name all the time, not only does it lose its history, it makes a break with its cultural traditions.

So why do some schools seriously want to change their names?

Some schools change their names because of the times and because of the image they identify with, which is quite reasonable. For example, Haidian Commuter University changed its name to Beijing City College because the idea of “commuter students” is no longer common. Similarly, after several institutes of higher education merge, they will necessarily chose an acceptable name that represents all the schools. And with the development of the higher education system in China, some schools will set up institutes and colleges based on existing departments, which requires them to change their own name from “college” or “institute” to “university”.

However, if profit is the motive for a school’s name change, this contradicts the spirit of higher education. There are many examples: a college may rename itself a university simply to attract some under-informed university entrance exam test takers, a school may “upgrade” its name just to attract more funds for scientific research and program approval opportunities, or an individual school head may hope to bolster his status from “College Dean” to “University Dean”. These name changes hurt people, and are quite lamentable.

We hope that all schools in China are high quality and distinguished centers full of new and interesting ideas instead of countless clones. But the more schools change their names, the more indistinct their specialties become. Many schools that originally had words like “steel”, “agricultural, ” and “industrial” in their names, schools that actually had strength in these areas, have removed these words from their names. They seem to be becoming more comprehensive, bit they are losing their specialties.

Taking another look at the famous schools of the world, there are “universities” like Stanford and Harvard, but there are also “institutes” like California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and even “branch schools” like University of California Berkeley. It doesn’t matter if it’s a university, a college, an institute, or a branch school, a name will not stop a school from gaining a place among the world’s first-rate schools.

Schools want to light a fire under their development, but changing a name isn’t the way to do it. We still have to rely on serious scholarship and research. After all, real achievements are needed to gain recognition.



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sad-studentLast year, the news that a female student from China at MIT had unexpectedly died in her dorm sent shockwaves through the entire country and the world, and attracted much attention from both students and parents. The story also once again brought safety in study abroad to our attention. Looking over recent news reports, it’s not hard to find a number of stories about study abroad students being attacked, or being arrested without proper understanding of their legal rights. Clearly, young people are currently lacking social and life experience, and have no awareness whatsoever of risk or defensive capabilities. Especially for students studying far away from their families and hometowns, their psychological fortitude is often weak, and when they experience pressure or failures, they don’t know how to mitigate these issues. This has led to the assaults, disappearances, suicides, legal issues, and other negative events currently in the news, and has caused serious harm and losses to students going abroad and their families.


Psychological Safety: The Right Prescription is a Holistic Approach

The number of psychological safety issues among study abroad students is currently on the rise. As more people are taking the issue seriously, we should help these students prepare psychologically for various challenges before going abroad. When studying abroad independently, it’s hard to avoid little bumps in the road and setbacks. Schools in other countries all have psychological counseling services which students can utilize regularly to stay happy and keep a good perspective on life abroad. The most common psychological issues among study abroad students these days are as follows:


1. Great schools cause loss of self-confidence

Such students all have very high expectations of themselves, just like the poor girl at MIT. Study abroad can cause a student’s abilities to falter. Because study abroad brings together the best students from around the world, especially ones from the top of their classes in excellent schools, these environments can cause former top students to lose their previous advantage. In some cases inability to adjust to a new environment can even cause these students to rank at the bottom of their class. The sense of failure can cause great psychological pressure, and even result in feelings of passiveness, rejection, and other negative emotions. This type of student most needs to be able to directly attack and face the failures before he or she can solve the problem and adjust methods of study. This in turn can help quickly get the student into study mode.


2. Leaving the parental nest, thoroughly liberated and “free”

Some students feel a complete sense of liberation and freedom as soon as they go abroad since they have for so long been subject to the intense pressure of China’s test-based system. Plus, some people spread rumors there’s no pressure when studying at foreign schools, and that the math, physics, and chemistry learned by Chinese students is good enough to get by without studying once abroad. This results in some students not taking their studies seriously at all once abroad, and instead traveling all around or focusing on finding a boyfriend or girlfriend. In fact, these rumors are totally baseless. Foreign schools might not be “high pressure” and teachers won’t be on the backs of students all the time, but it’s a different way of learning. Foreign schools are “easy to get into, hard to get through,” and all have a certain flunk/drop-out rate. This means that those totally “independent” students have no way of getting their degree in the end, instead receiving a few academic credits and then quickly heading back to China. Study abroad advisors recommend that to prevent issues like this, students had best get in the habit of coming up with a plan for their course of study by practically planning different courses and content each semester. They can take control of the direction of their study, and such planning also helps develop proactive independent oversight and the taking of initiative. Advisors also feel students should take their own plans seriously. If they make unclear plans and change them constantly, the significance of their plan will be lost.


3. New environment, hard to communicate and make friends

Since those studying abroad alone are entering a new environment full of strangers, it’s easy for them to become isolated and live in a very small world. It’s easy for them to fail to integrate or even feel conflicts with local ways of life, and try to rely on only themselves to resolve every problem. This is another common problem for study abroad students. Learning to communicate is a real difficulty for them, and they must be brave to open their mouths, feel good about communicating with others, and understand how to get to know people. Study abroad advisors suggest students should actively join student social groups, which is the best way to get into student life while abroad. Not only can friends be made in these groups, but it’s also a good way to get to know about the local culture and customs and take part in activities, and make more of one’s study abroad experience. Study abroad students don’t need to worry at all about cultural differences, shield themselves psychologically, or feel burdened. Just like getting a good grade, collecting contacts while abroad is very important. Getting out of your own comfort zone and learning how to connect with others is also an opportunity to let others get to know you.

No matter what, study abroad is the beginning of independence. Provided that a student going abroad is aware of the details of the laws and regulations of the destination country, making a “study abroad safety guide” for him or herself, and understands suitable psychological stress relief methods, study abroad is not at all a high-risk undertaking.



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Professor Visits US: Gates of Famous US Schools Look Very Average

January 25, 2013

Last summer, Zheng Xiaobian, Professor at the Central China Normal University Psychology Institute traveled to the United States with his daughter, along the way visiting a number of top US universities including Harvard, MIT, Princeton, and Stanford. What he didn’t expect was that the gates of these schools were all very average, some were even […]

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