All China Women's Federation





Editor: Sun Xi - February 5, 2013


While most people may assume that finding a job is quite easy for master's or doctorate degree holders, some in China have found this to be untrue. For them, despite holding a postgraduate degree from an accredited university, their job seeking is hindered by the fact that their bachelor's degrees are very often from unknown colleges. 


With her doctorate in engineering, Ms. Zeng Ling excels at scientific research. Despite this, a second-rate university recently turned her down because her bachelor's degree was not from a renowned university.


"I knew that my educational qualifications in the past were far from impressive, and that's why I tried so hard to do better and improve. I didn't expect that it would still affect my future," said Zeng, feeling helpless.


Many of Zeng's classmates who also hold a doctorate degree have encountered the same situation. According to her, employers usually will not state outright that applicants must have a bachelor's degree from a famous university, but will simply cut out those who don't. 


This baffles many job seekers. "Employers usually put emphasis on a candidate having a good postgraduate degree. We already have these. Why do they care about which college we got our bachelor's degree from? What's the difference between us and those who own the same master's and doctorate degrees but graduated from a key undergraduate college?" they argue.


Kang Junming, deputy secretary of the party committee of the School of Electrical Engineering, Wuhan University, has admitted that the universities at which candidates complete their undergraduate degrees do influence their hiring decisions, but only to a certain extent. 


He added that many large state-owned enterprises and research institutes apply the same hiring policy, including the State Grid Corporation of China, a much-coveted employer among Chinese job seekers.


Kang says that the employment situation is even more severe this year and many companies have reduced their job offers. With limited spaces and a glut of applicants, they naturally only consider the best of the best. "Having extremely high requirements allows us to quickly weed out most of the job applicants. It doesn't necessarily mean that we think they aren't good enough." 


Kang personally does not agree with such a selection criteria. "Having a postgraduate degree from a good university already proves that the candidate is qualified for the job. Questioning their first degree is not scientific."


Some enterprise HR managers, however, hold a different opinion. One HR employee from a state-owned company in Wuhan said that many college graduates decide to pursue postgraduate degrees because they are unable to find good jobs. 


"Although graduating with a bachelor's degree from an unknown college does not necessarily mean the candidate is inferior, if all else is equal, it will make them lose out to those who graduated from a prestigious college," he said. "Private or small-sized companies might not consider it a factor, but large companies definitely do."


Cao, director of human resources at a well-known private enterprise, said that although a candidate's undergraduate degree is a consideration, they attach more importance to abilities and skills. "It would better if they graduated from a key university but we also have to consider talent retention. Companies must obey the principle of stabilizing the company's employee pool."


In May 2011, China's Ministry of Education and National Development and Reform Commission jointly issued a notice showing that the postgraduate enrollment scale in 2011 reached 584,416, among which 67,216 were new doctoral students. 


Compared to that of nine years ago in 2003, the scale had increased by 1.17 times. The numbers of doctoral and postgraduate students increased by 37.9 percent and 1.35 times respectively.


A survey shows that each doctoral supervisor in China supervises about 5.77 doctoral students on average, much higher than in foreign countries, where each doctoral supervisor oversees only two to three students. In 2011, there were 1,019 doctoral programs added among 81 colleges and universities. 


Speaking from the international perspective, the number of China's doctoral degree endowments is only less than in the U.S. And China has become one of the foremost producers of doctorate holders.


"Many local enterprises have reduced their job vacancies and they don't need so many postgraduate students. However, the number of master's and doctorate holders has been increasing every year," said Liu Jianquan, who is responsible for the hiring department of the Hubei Human Resource Center. 


New doctoral graduate Xiaoyang says there are more and more doctorate holders these days, including those who have returned from overseas, and the competition is fierce. "It is an employers' market right now. Employers have limited hiring resources and abundant choices. Setting the bar higher is a way to weed out some of them." 


This attitude has also driven many high school students to retake the college entrance exams, despite passing them the first time round. A high school in Wuhan recruited 20 percent more students in 2012 than in 2011. Among them, 40 percent could have gotten into a B-level college. 


Their aim is clear and simple: to get into a key university. In 2012, about 20 graduates from the school got into Peking University or Tsinghua University, China's two most prestigious colleges.


Education expert Xiong Bingqi said Chinese students and parents all prioritize getting into the most prestigious universities whose admission rates are only an average of 8.5 percent. "The pressure is even greater now than in 1998, when a state policy mandated that colleges increase their enrollment numbers, causing masses of students to compete to get into university." 


He added that it is severe educational background discrimination to dig out information on the bachelor's degree of a doctorate holder job seeker. He has said that the main reason behind this is the unscientific talent evaluation system of most employers. "They judge a person merely on their educational background, which goes against the concept of employment equality. In addition, this situation can make people blindly worship key universities."


"We must strictly implement the Employment Promotion Act issued by the Ministry of Education. But the reality is that no one really looks into such cases," Xiong said.


The rising demands of employers on candidates mean that many are driven to pursue postgraduate degrees, but on the other hand, this glut of postgraduate degree holders has caused many employers to question their qualifications. It is clear that this is a dilemma that will only continue to grow unless it is addressed by educational departments and employers. 


(Source: Chutian Gold Newspaper/Translated and edited by womenofchina.cn)