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Graduate students are cheap labor in China
The Epoch Times
3/25/2005

According to Chinese media, Chinese graduate professors are exploiting students by assigning them tedious, underpaid tasks unrelated to their professional field or studies. China Youth Daily reported on Feb. 28 that many Chinese engineering school graduates do not find meaning or satisfaction from their “research” jobs and feel powerless to change the situation.

Wang Ke, an undergraduate student in architecture and engineering, took part in an extensive project organized by his professor in July 2004. His job was to convert a text document of 7,000 elementary and middle schools into another format and then save the information in a database. The job has no relevance to his studies and could easily have been done by a high school student.

He finished fewer than 200 of the 7,000 schools after six months of working on the project, even though he was able to scan 3,000 pages of data within three days. Even if he were to forgo sleep and meals, it would be impossible for him to finish the work before his October 2005 deadline.

There are only two computers and one bed in the lab where Zhao Wen works and sleeps. He complains that the work his teacher assigned him has no technical content and interferes with his work on his graduation paper. He is only paid US$48.43 a month, much less than the average salary for menial labor.

Graduate student Zhang Qin says he hopes the situation will improve. He says that graduate education will be totally destroyed if professors continue to abuse their students. He has the simple desire for students and teachers to respect each other. He and most other graduate students do not dare complain, since professors have the right to decide whether they graduate.

However, some students did take that risk and successfully stood up to their professor in February 2004. Nine graduates from Shanghai Jiaotong University’s computer school had their professor fired and replaced. The graduate students believed that the professor exploited them by making them spend most of their time working on his projects, preventing them from doing in-depth research work. He also did not give them enough guidance in their academic work.

Xu Jilin, professor of the Modern Ideology and Culture Institute at China East Normal University, said that because teachers have total control over their students, students rarely dare report problems to university authorities. He believes that if the relationship between teachers and students improved, teachers would have to think twice before trying to exploit their students.

Regarding graduates’ complaints about exploitation, professor Xu believes that it depends on what kind of job the professor gives his students. There is nothing wrong with a job closely related to the student’s research, because it helps students improve their scientific research skills. During the holidays, when some students need to make extra money, it’s understandable if their work isn’t related to their research. He adds that forcing students to work full time on a project that has nothing to do with their research, however, will result in the deterioration of the relationship between teachers and students.

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