Businesslike Fourth Option

Prof Andrew Graves, head of the University’s School of Management, told Li he could resubmit the 12,000-word essay, appeal against the mark or accept it and withdraw from the course.

But Li told the professor “I am a businessman”, before placing £5,000 in cash on the table in front of him.

“There is a fourth option, you can keep the money if you give me a pass mark and I won’t bother you again,” he told Prof Graves.

BBC News, April 23, 2013

Ifeng (Phoenix, Hong Kong) and Xinwen Wanbao (Shanghai) also report the story, but can only use a phonetic combination of characters to write Yang’s name, as they draw on a Daily Mail report.

6 Comments to “Businesslike Fourth Option”

  1. It’s the gun part that’s outright frightening to me (here I am thinking I’ve escaped the gun culture by leaving the US to Europe/UK), but some forms of cheating is sadly common within some overseas Chinese students community…


  2. I’d say that Li’s approach was unusually blunt, but it’s only one side of the story, in my view. I don’t know a great deal about British universities, but in Germany, private (i. e. business) funding has become an important part of academic research in many different fields after decades when it played a much smaller role. It isn’t doing academia a lot of good.

    I don’t think that even Li was a particular “threat” to academic integrity. The Economist had a story about British universities in China – and the compromises one of them makes where it isn’t “tricky”, in my view, but just wrong:

    Trade-offs with the host culture can be tricky. Dulwich, despite a strong Christian tradition, accepts that it cannot teach religion in its Chinese schools. But the King’s School in Canterbury recently pulled out of a partnership there, concluding that the constraint was inappropriate given its association with the cathedral, the historic seat of the Church of England. It is trying instead to form a partnership with a chain of Indian schools. Bureaucratic hassles have generally made India less attractive than other Asian countries.

    :The challenge doesn’t actually come that much from the Chinese side – that could be handled if the European side wouldn’t abandon their own cornerstones in the interest of reaching a “bigger market”.

    There are two “wrongs” in this field, in my view. One is that one Chinese student is often seen as part of a particularly big and attractive market. A frequent reverse side of this is a rather xenophobe general suspicion that “Chinese students cheat”. Universities need to look at the individual – regardless of nationality. When they are consistent in doing that, it doesn”t only help integrity on their own campus, it actually helps their “business”, too. In fact, I’ve seen a number of overseas Chinese forum comments which express a sense of encouragement from Li’s failure.

    In short: I believe that stories like Li’s highlight a bigger problem. I don’t think there’s much of a “Chinese” problem here. It’s home-made.


  3. I’m no expert on British higher education either, but my guess is that the international students’ tuition & other consumption plays a much bigger role than it plays in Germany. Some figure put the overall contribution at £14bn (I’ve seen lower figures but around this neighbourhood). When I was in London I was lamenting to my British professor about how international students in the US doesn’t get political attention because many of our issues do not make to the public discourse…he was like, oh, international students are definitely a political issue here, because we need you guys’ money much more than the Americans….

    What I know is that many students admitting to British/American schools (especially the language training schools, but also universities) do not have the necessary English level. Many in the postgraduate courses do not have necessary academic training (i.e, academic writing) that was required for undergraduates (though for our defence, I’ve seen locals who write terribly but manage to get degrees on a quite regular basis). Some of these tensions are highlighted in the London Metropolitan University incident. Because a few months later one of my schoolmates was basically threw out of my school on the ground of her speech alone (she half jokingly said that she wanted to kill our international advisor, the person in charge of our visa/immigration issues; one of her most trusted American friend actually went ahead and reported this to the very international advisor, who initiated a secret campaign of throwing this student out without ANY public knowledge), and almost all the Chinese students around me see nothing wrong with such (I was of course, devastated and tried very hard to persuade people join me in the effort of overturning this arbitrary and wrong decision), I would say there are quite a few camps within the overseas Chinese student community, and yes, on a policy level, we do not deserve to be treated like cash cows + diversity targets + socially marginalised/suspicious minorities in the spaces supposedly still stand for knowledge and wisdom.

    Now, the opening school in China thing is out of my limited experience, but teaching religion (especially before college/university level) is a quite debatable thing in many parts of the world, including the US…though as private schools with no public money from the government I don’t see it as that much an issue here…it has to be a business concern, and honestly I see a problem here, but don’t feel as strongly as you are. A much more worrisome idea to me is the social division such schools create – up to this point even the most affluent and influential members of Chinese society sent their kids to Chinese public schools. Better ones, yes, but the same framework. Now people are able to purchase such schools, completely separating them with the lesser financially privileged members of Chinese society – I know this is the dynamic in many other places, but in a China with so much division between people already and an increasing rich/poor gap, such things are not a good idea.

    I whole-heatedly agree with your idea of not linking this to nationality. It is precisely because of such inappropriate linking that many of the more thoughtful members in our community do not talk about cheating within us to the local mainstream for fear of sabotaging the Chinese image, which hurt everyone in the long run.

    On a quite irrelevant sidenote, there is a chance I’ll be a Chinese student in Germany some day though…


  4. Apparently I cannot spell and use the right grammar. Apologise for that.


  5. Several points to clarify:

    The £14bn figure is for per year…I’ve seen other estimates for 8bn or 5bn….not exactly “around the neighbourhood”…

    London Metropolitan University’s incident:

    (please forgive a technology fool who doesn’t know how to insert links into the text in comments)…


  6. The good thing about writing links in full is that you can see the source immediately. 😉

    I remember a teacher who taught at a privately-run school before switching to state schooling, and her main reason to switch was that her superiors required her to tell parents that their child, even if simply not qualified, was “just too lazy and should work harder” – so as to keep the kid as a source of earnings.
    (That was at a time when parents were capable of believing that their child might be lazy, and that it wasn’t necessarily a teacher’s fault. It would be an impossible “guideline” today.)

    As long as an institution has good teachers, practical rules and ways to implement them, they won’t need to worry where their students are from. And in the process, they earn themselves a good name which will attract talent, not scam.


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