NEWSBRIEF: Chinese students to be offered online degrees

Open Universities Australia is the latest foreign consortium to broach the vast Chinese education market. The Australian company - it has seven shareholder universities - has begun recruiting students in China who will be part of a year-long trial beginning in August. The students will study online at home and, provided they meet entrance requirements, will be able to choose from any of the 750 units on offer.

But they will have to achieve a score of at least 6.5 on the IELTS test to enrol in an undergraduate unit and 7.0 for a postgraduate course. Fees will range from about A$800-$1,000 (US$754-942).

Although many universities around the world offer units, courses and whole degrees online, what sets the OUA apart is the fact it offers degrees through its seven partners and another eight universities that also provide further units of study. Students who complete the requirements for a degree receive their certificate from one or other of the universities they study with.

OUA Chief Executive Stuart Hamilton told University World News the trial was a joint project with a Beijing-based student recruiting company, EduGlobal. The Chinese company recruits and prepares students for study at overseas education institutions.

"Estimates vary about the potential size of the market from the overly ambitious to the highly cautious," Hamilton said. "But we only want to recruit to test the model and if we got several hundred students that would be a successful pilot."

He said the project would offer Chinese students a third way of studying with a foreign university. Instead of going overseas or enrolling in the China-based campus of a foreign institution, students could study online at home.

"This will suit students who are unable to leave China for cost or work reasons," Hamilton said. "We are not aware of any prohibitions China has placed on online study although there have been issues about content we've had to work through with the handful of Chinese students who are currently enrolled through the OUA."

Last year, the OUA enrolled 25,000 Australian and overseas student who studied a total of 68,000 units. - GM