The buying and selling of academic thesis papers has become so common that in 2007 alone the sales revenue was between 180 million and 540 million yuan (S$26 million to $79 million), according to Chinese media reports.
Buyers from universities and research institutes purchase the theses they need over the internet, according to Associate Professor Shen Yang from Wuhan University School of Information Management, quoted in a Yangtze Daily report.
'Mindboggling' corruptionOn Dec. 17, Sound of Hope radio interviewed two professors in China to find out more about the practice.
Dr. Sun, a retired professor from Shandong University, said it’s one of the ways that corruption in academia manifests. “Students, professors, and researchers—they are all involved. Students need to have their papers published in order to graduate,” he said. Professors and scientists need published papers to obtain promotions that reflect the status of their titles, and some Communist Party officials need an academic degree to gain a promotion, Sun explained, all of which drives the market. “The range of needs dictates the phenomenon of publication sales—a multi-million dollar business in Chinese society.”
It shows the corruption of Chinese society, Sun continued. “Plagiarism has always existed in China. Directors of academic departments are often politicians with power, but they lack an academic background. When they push for a promotion, besides bribing members of review boards, they pay for people to write research papers for them,” he said. With a loose review process for research papers, an ample sales market for them has formed. “The extent of the corruption within academic institutions is mindboggling.”
Dr. Jiao Guobiao, associate professor of Beijing University’s Department of Journalism, says that the evaluation process for the promotion of teachers, as well as prospective graduating students, all depends on whether they have published papers.
Jiao was blacklisted in China, meaning his name cannot appear in any Chinese media reports, after he published a scathing critique of the role of the Central Propaganda Department in 2004.
“China has rigid standards for who should write what kind of papers and under which circumstances. For students who also need to work part-time, it’s evident that they have neither the time nor the resources to write papers,” he said “They will end up buying their semester, year, or graduation papers. I know this is what happens.”
The Ministry of Education in China apparently plays at least a tacit role in the paper sales scheme. “The Ministry of Education or the universities only expect you to meet the requirement for the number of papers; their expectations are not based on whether you write them or not,” he said. “As long as you have a paper to meet the evaluation criteria, everyone is happy.”