“Most of the cases of famous overseas professors being employed by Beijing University are fake,” said Dr. Shing-Tung Yau, a prominent Chinese mathematics professor at Harvard University, in a recent interview with Southern People Weekly.
Beijing University (also known as Peking University) kept silent for nearly a month after the statement was published. However, on July 29, a university spokesperson published an official response on the university's news Web site. The spokesperson said that Dr. Yau's statement was an irresponsible distortion of the facts that seriously damaged the reputation of overseas scholars as well as the reputation of Beijing University.
The recently published article, “Chinese Education Has Gone Through Many Ridiculous Roads,” quoted Professor Yau as saying: “The New York Times says that 40 percent of Beijing University's teachers are from overseas. You can investigate it in the United States—I guarantee most are false.”
Yau also said that many big projects in China appear to hire a lot of experts, especially from overseas. He alleges that this is also a false picture.
According to Yau, many of the famous professors are full-time professors overseas. They are required to work in the United States for nine months. Because they can only be abroad for three months, Beijing University's claim of hiring full-time overseas professors is clearly false, he says.
Why would a famous university in China make false claims? Hiring a famous professor can bring in tens of millions of yuan (millions of US dollars) in government funding.
According to Beijing Morning Post, the Beijing University spokesperson stated that the university has increased hiring overseas professors since 1998, and that during the past eight years, approximately 40 percent of the staff was hired from overseas.
The spokesperson for the university also said that most of the teachers hired by the university are highly educated, with prestigious academic positions, and outstanding academic achievements overseas. They are distinguished professors and lecturers.
Dr. Shing-Tung Yau is a Professor of Mathematics at Harvard University, a U.S. National Academies scholar, one of the first foreign scholars of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and a foreign scholar of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Dr. Yau spoke out against the corruption in Chinese academic circles last summer. He said that there are a lot of problems with the fundamental education in Chinese universities. The basic quality of many college students, especially in the area of self-cultivation, is deteriorating.
The academic atmosphere is also declining. He said he had received many false letters of recommendation from students in China. Students write the recommendation letters, and their professors just sign their names.
Professor Yau said that without paying attention to the fundamental education of its citizens, China cannot hope to educate the most talented individuals within the present educational system.