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Methods of appraisal of the chinese certificates of education for academic recognition

E.V. Shevchenko, M.N. Zhitnikova

Pursuant to the applicable procedures for the recognition and identification of equivalence of certificates of education issued in the foreign states, the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation has the right to make decisions and issue certificates entitling the holders thereof to the same academic rights to continue education as provided for by the equivalent Russian certificates of education. However, officers of international department and services of the Russian higher institutions inviting foreign students shall be aware of the algorithm of examination of the documents on prior training, and have proper understanding of the types of certificates of education issued abroad. Knowledge of the education system structure and education management specifics promotes understanding what kind of certificates of education the applicant can submit, including the exterior design of these documents depending on the level of education program authenticating the completion of the relevant training program, as well as the way this document shall be completed, identifying the notarizing person and the additional documents, which should confirm the applicant's qualification.

In any case, briefly speaking, the examination algorithm comprises of the following stages:

1. Acceptance of the original documents. Foreign students shall submit the original (no photocopies!) certificate of prior education (diploma and/or certificate) and annex thereto providing the data on the subjects studied. In addition, the applicant shall submit 2 (Two) copies of these documents properly notarized in accordance with established procedures, and translations of these documents into Russia or any other commonly recognized language (as a rule, English). It is important that the student personally fill in the special application form, providing such data as date of birth, place of birth and all prior training places, training commencement and completion dates, location of the education establishment and the type of document received upon completion thereof.

2. Visual paperwork examination. The person accepting the documents shall thoroughly examine the original documents for proper completion, erasures and corrections, matching impressions of the 'dry' seal, as well as for removed, inserted or pasted pages, notarization of the documents and photocopies thereof in accordance with established procedures, etc.

3. Interview with the student, to allow the person accepting the documents verify the dates and the ages of the student during the specific periods of training, form of training (full-time, evening, distance), type of the mastered program (basic or extended), etc.

Following the interview, the person accepting the documents would usually return the originals to the owner and work with the copies thereafter.

4. Formal paperwork examination implies thorough check of the dates of birth, entering the education establishments and names thereof, verification of the seals on the basic document and annexes thereto, etc. In addition, the inspector shall check the translations with the basic and the additional documents on a paragraph-by-paragraph, and in certain cases on a line-by-line basis, particularly verifying the figures (numbers0 in the documents and translations thereof.

5. Fundamental paperwork examination. The inspector shall on the basis of all available sources get an insight into the education system of a country issuing the document, find out whether the issuing education establishment is properly accredited in accordance with regulations applicable in the relevant country, identify the rights of the owner based on this particular document, etc.

6. Written report on the examination shall provide the data acquired in the course of Stage 5, and conclusions on whether the foreign applicant should be admitted to any particular training course, or state the reasons for rejection to admit.

Apparently, the detailed analysis of all paperwork appraisal stages in a single article is impossible. Let's consider the implementation of Stage 4 and Stage 5 with reference to certificates of education submitted by the Chinese nationals.

Year after year, the increasingly higher number of countries are getting involved in globalization of education. Following the changes in domestic policies in Russia and China over the last decades, our countries also became active participants of this process. The PRC nationals are getting increasingly interested in Russia on the whole and, particularly, in the Russian education system. The Chinese nationals still remember the years of close cooperation with our country, how the Chinese youth studied in the USSR higher institutions in the 1950s, and the high standards of education.

Extensive reforming of the PRC education system, including enforcement of a multi-stage higher education and academic degrees system, paid training at universities and colleges, and, on the other hand, the increasing prestige of education on the whole and higher education in particular over the last few years resulted in considerable growth of the number of Chinese students studying outside China (and favoring the Russian universities among others). The Russian higher institutions, first rejoicing at such tendency, subsequently found themselves unprepared for such an influx of Chinese students. Among other things, this unpreparedness manifested itself in lack of knowledge concerning the Chinese education system and qualifications granted by the higher institutions in PRC. Poor understanding of academic rights, which the Chinese students have at their homeland, resulted in erroneous decisions regarding the admission of the Chinese nationals who in fact have no right to be admitted to certain education programs. These errors are akin to a delayed-action bomb with potential aftereffects capable of manifesting themselves long after the officials responsible for erroneous decisions are retired. However, the universities will carry on, therefore all these effects may become negative flack for the university's image globally, resulting in trouble with its graduate diplomas recognition in other countries.

Chinese certificates of education have their own, state-specific peculiarities, which further complicate the appraisal of such documents. That is why the Russian higher institutions occasionally accept diplomas on the secondary vocational education or on completion of a special supplementary training course at a university college (or a university, which is also possible) as proof of the completion of the first stage of higher education, and on the basis of such diploma the Chinese student may be admitted to the M.A. program or to the senior B.A./specialist courses. This is a flagrant violation of both Chinese and Russian laws on education. Neither PRC, nor any other civilized country will recognize the M.A. degree acquired this way as completion of the second stage of higher education.

Considerable growth of the number of the Chinese nationals willing to study at Russian universities, as well as the experience at appraisal of the Chinese qualifications accumulated by the Service of Expert Examination and Recognition of the Credentials with the Center of International Education of Moscow State University and by the Academic Research Laboratory for the Appraisal of Certificates of Education at the International Education Management Department of the Institute of International Education Programs with St.Petersburg State Polytechnic University, allowed the authors of this article work out the methods for preliminary appraisal of the Chinese certificates of education.

Over the last few years, the years of reformation of the domestic and foreign policy, the PRC adopted a number of regulatory legal acts regulating the sphere of education: "The Law of the People's Republic of China on Education", "The Law of the People's Republic of China on Compulsory Education", "The Law of the People's Republic of China on Higher Education", "The Law of the People's Republic of China on Vocational Training", "The Law of the People's Republic of China on Instructors" and "Regulations of the People's Republic of China on Academic Degrees".

Pursuant to these laws, the PRC Ministry of Education is the supreme body in the education system (formerly referred to as "the State Committee for Education"), directly controlling the higher education system. Therefore, higher education certificates issued by regular universities and colleges, and by higher institutions for grownups have almost uniform design. All other spheres, such as elementary, secondary and secondary vocational schools are regulated and controlled by local education authorities in accordance with the existing administrative division. China 's administrative units are currently based on a three-level system dividing the nation into provinces, counties, and townships. At the moment, China consists of 23 provinces, 5 autonomous regions, 4 municipalities directly under the Central Government and 2 special administrative regions. This distribution of management functions results in a big variety of forms and types of certificates of secondary education issued in the PRC. The standard form of a certificate of secondary education is virtually non-existent.

However, one can identify a number of specific features incidental to all certificates of education issued in the PRC. These documents can be divided into two groups: final documents certifying the successful completion of any of the existing training programs (passing all necessary exams and credits, completion of term papers and all scheduled internships, and compliance with social, public and moral standards). The cover of such document shall always bear the following four characters ('diploma"), which conventionally may be interpreted both as a 'general certificate of education' and as a 'diploma'.

Other documents merely certify the applicant's participation in the training process and partial compliance with requirements of the mandatory training program, whereupon the graduate usually receives a document titled. This document may be equivalent either to the Russian document certifying the completion of a secondary school, or to an academic record. This document does not entitle its holder to enjoy the conventional rights of a 'diploma' holder. It should be noted, however, that in Chinese spelling the "words" differ only by the first character, whereas translation can be the same - 'certificate' or 'voucher', since translators often disregard the subtlety of translation and specifics of the terms.

All Chinese certificates of education usually contain the following data (all words, and oftentimes figures, are written in characters):

•  name of the holder;

•  sex;

•  date of birth (sometimes age on the date of completion of the training program);

•  place of birth (province, town/city);

•  training commencement and completion date;

•  training program profile and duration;

•  picture of the holder with a so-called 'dry' or 'steel' seal affixed by the body responsible for the issue of the document (unfortunately, this kind of a seal is hardly visible on photocopies);

•  seal of the headmaster/rector (usually a 'facsimile' of big characters or a red rectangular stamp);

•  red round seal bearing the name of the education establishment;

•  date of issue;

•  document No., sometimes personal number of the student and the education establishment.

Each Chinese applicant shall submit a package of documents containing the final document certifying the completion of a relevant education establishment and attainment of a relevant qualification. The applicant may also submit the annex listing the studied subjects, examination grades and academic content, usually in terms of hours or other units (compulsory requirement for holders of the higher education diplomas).

According to international conventions, the applicant is eligible for the higher education programs upon submission of the document certifying the successful completion of senior secondary education curriculum.

Secondary Education (Academic)

This document is issued to the Chinese students upon completion of a high (academic) school training (high school diploma, successful completion of a training program) on the basis of successful passing of final exams. In the event of an unsatisfactory grade at the exam, the student may take the exam on this particular subject once again but the final grade shall not be higher than 'satisfactory'. Failing to fulfill the standard requirements, the student shall receive a certificate of completion of the high school training course (marked), but this document does not render its holder eligible for entering any higher institution within the PRC. One shall keep in mind this aspect upon the analysis of the submitted papers, heeding not only the translation, but also thoroughly studying the characters on the cover of the document. Unfortunately, deliberate misrepresentation is not uncommon for translators replacing the terms, although most of the times the translations are inaccurate, incomplete and sometimes downright inadequate.

Much to further dismay of the experts, the PRC does not have standard form for the certificates of secondary education, except for the common features mentioned hereinabove and incidental to all certificates of education. However, each specific form is valid only if it is issued in the province where the school is located, duly endorsed by the relevant education supervisory authority of this same province responsible for the issuance of certificates of education, and translations and photocopies thereof shall also be notarized in the same province. These requirements also apply to certificates of education obtained on other levels. About one third of provinces issue final certificates of secondary education providing data on final test results. All other provinces provide the data on final exams in a separate document issued by the province administrative body responsible for holding such exams. Some certificates are complete with the holder's picture and executed in the same way as the certificate of secondary education, while others are just a small perforated sheet of paper, but all these documents shall be endorsed by the seal of the administrative body of the province responsible for holding the exams.

Results of the final tests are very important for graduates of secondary schools who are willing to enter higher institutions in China. The higher the rating of the Chinese university (which means the diploma of the future graduate will be rated likewise higher), the higher school grades the applicant shall have. Thoroughly poor performance strips the graduate of the slightest chance to enter a prestigious university in China. Even high grade earned at the uniform national entrance exams to the university does not make the individual with mediocre performance at high school eligible for the admission to any of the top rating universities.

Based on the aforementioned, one should pursue the following algorithm of preliminary appraisal of certificates of secondary education:

•  the package should contain data not only on successful completion of the school, but the results of final exams as well;

•  all items (I through XI) in the documents shall be filled in;

•  period of school training shall be the same as the standard high school period, which is 3 years;

•  the graduate should be 18 years old;

•  the cover of the document shall have the name of the province of issue, and the seal shall contain description of the supervisory body of this province responsible for the issue of certificates of secondary education;

•  make sure to find the following characters on the cover of the document: (high school certificate) and (diploma).

•  all grades in the final exams certificate shall be good; the date of issue of any such certificate is usually preceding the date of diploma.

Vocational Training

The Chinese system of secondary vocational training consists of three types of educational institutions ( обобщенно together referred to as vocational schools): specialized technical schools, secondary vocational schools (colleges) and trade schools.

Training programs at vocational schools are vastly different from those of the academic high schools. And the differences are increasingly profound along the list. As a rule, 1-2 subjects mandatory in academic schools are missing in the specialized vocational schools curriculum. At the secondary vocational colleges they usually teach 4-5 comprehensive subjects out of 9 compulsory, whereas trade schools usually make do with the Chinese language, mathematics and politics. Periods of education are also decreasing down the list mentioned hereinabove: from 3-4 years to 2 years. The level of training of the graduates of such institutions is definitely no match to the Russian secondary (comprehensive) education, which is the reason of conflicts arising during the consideration of paperwork submitted by the Chinese applicants.

Certificates of Higher Education

To be eligible for the admission to the M.A. program at the Russian higher institutions, the applicant shall have sufficient qualification for the admission to Stage II higher education in the country where the relevant certificate has been issued, which shall be equal to the Russian B.A. degree in a certain field or to a specialist diploma. Pursuant to the PRC laws, only applicants with academic B.A. degree (as opposed to the specialist qualification: engineer, economist, instructor, etc.) may be admitted to the entrance exams for the Master's degree program.

Higher education in the PRC is realized in two flows:

•  Multiple level programs at regular universities and colleges.

•  Multiple level programs within the system of adult education.

Both flows are realized in the same regular universities and colleges, with applicants usually aiming to enter a specific higher institution, but rather to take courses under a specific training program. One may single out basic and special course programs in both flows. These programs are profoundly different in terms of the level of training, and the graduates, therefore, have profoundly different academic and professional rights in China. However, standard forms of the documents certifying the completion of these programs are very similar. The difference can only be detected in the terms of training and names of programs (keep in mind the two combinations of characters: basic program, and special program, where one can tell them apart only by the first character).

Special Course Programs

It takes 2 or 3 years to complete these programs at vocational colleges or at the province- or municipal level universities. These programs are devised for training of specialists in particular spheres, whose level upon graduation is close to that of the holders of the advanced Russian secondary vocational training, for curriculum of the said programs for the most part consist of particular subjects.

Special program never results in the B.A. degree, which otherwise would make the graduate eligible for the Master's program training.

Holders of such qualifications may be admitted (on the basis of certificate issued by the Ministry of Education of the Russian Federation) only to the relevant course of the B.A. or specialist program based on the prior training, with an option for re-evaluation under certain subjects. In the event of training under a different specialty, the applicant may be admitted only to the first-year training course.

Basic Course Program

These four-year programs are implemented at universities authorized to grant academic degrees. The training is usually concluded by the final research paper defense and the graduate would usually earn the B.A. degree under the specific curriculum receive a certificate executed in accordance with approved form.

On the whole, the milestones of appraisal of paperwork submitted by the applicants for the admission to the Master's degree program are as follows: the diploma shall identify the type of education program (basic), 4 years of training, and, in addition to the diploma, the package of submitted papers shall contain the B.A. certificate. The documents shall be checked to ensure that all items (I through XI) are properly stated). Name of the university granting the degree shall be the same as in the diploma and the rector's seal (facsimile). The year of issue of the diploma and the certificate shall be identical, whereas the numbers of the said documents may be different, although they always contain figures corresponding to the year of completion of the higher institution.

Adult Training

Adult education programs cover all levels - from functional literacy schools to universities, and can be implemented in traditional universities and institutes, and/or TV-universities, workers' colleges, farmers' colleges, evening and open universities, colleges for managerial personnel (full-time, full-time/part-time, part-time and distance programs). These higher institutions extend their programs to those who lost their opportunity to study at regular schools, colleges and universities. They also include multiple courses of occupational retraining and refresher courses to the nationals with a definite level of secondary or higher education. Same as in regular universities and colleges, the adult higher education system offers programs for the special and basic courses. Certificates of specific qualification issued by the higher institutions within the adult higher education system are recognized in the PRC on a par with qualification acquired at the regular universities and colleges during the specific period of training. However, in terms of curriculum, these programs differ greatly from the Russian State Education Standards, which is profoundly detrimental to the appraisal of the actual education level of the holder of such diploma. Standard forms of diplomas within the adult education system always have character, which identifies this document's affiliation to the system under review.

Summing up, it should be noted that a foreign student admitted to the Russian higher institution under a specific education program, who is otherwise ineligible for such training in the country of prior education certificate, upon graduation and reception of the Russian diploma, will go back to his homeland or continue traveling in search of a better life. Wherever, he/she will have to submit the Russian certificate of education for recognition by the relevant state. Expert services and foreign qualifications appraisal agencies (which may be governmental, institutional or independent), acting in accordance with internationally recognized standards, shall review the applicant's education records. Qualified experts, sufficiently skilled in recognition of credentials and possessing extensive databases, shall analyze the submitted papers to establish the conformity of the received education with qualifications granted in the relevant country. Faults detected in the sequence of mastering the education levels may result in annulment of all qualifications obtained from the date of breach of the compulsory education programs sequence. The defaulting university and, consequently, all its future graduates holding its diplomas are bound to be held in low regard in the country where any such faults are disclosed. According to the experience, prejudice will manifest itself in recognition of graduates of any such defaulting university along the most stringent and time-consuming procedure envisaged by the statutory acts regulating the recognition in this particular country, as well as in non-admission and/or termination of academic and scientific cooperation with the defaulting university. This being the case, recognition of the Russian education begins on the stage of selection of foreign applicants.


1. Chinese Basic Education. - Beijing: Department of International Cooperation & Exchanges; Ministry of Education; The People's Republic of China, 1994. - 32 pp.

2. Chinese Higher Education. - Beijing: Department of International Cooperation & Exchanges; Ministry of Education; The People's Republic of China, 1994. - 34 pp.

3. Chinese Postgraduate and Doctorate Training. - Beijing: Department of International Cooperation & Exchanges; Ministry of Education; The People's Republic of China, 1994. - 31 pp.

4. Chinese Vocational Technical Training. - Beijing: Department of International Cooperation & Exchanges; Ministry of Education; The People's Republic of China, 1994. - 31 pp.

5. Degree and Graduate Education in China. - Beijing : Department of International Cooperation & Exchanges; Ministry of Education; The People's Republic of China, 1998. - 24 pp.

6. Education Law of the People's Republic of China. - Beijing : State Education Commission of the People's Republic of China, 1995. - 53 pp.

7. Education Inspection System in China. - Beijing : Department of International Cooperation & Exchanges; Ministry of Education; The People's Republic of China. - 19 pp.

8. Study in China. - Beijing : The Chinese National Society of Universities and Colleges for Foreign Students Affairs, 2001. - 81 p.

9. The Academic Degree System of China. - Beijing : Department Foreign Affairs of the State Education Commission of the PRC., 1995. - 30 p.


Eugene Vasilyevich Shevchenko, born 1945, Leningrad Polytechnic Institute (graduated 1970), Ph.D. (Engineering Sciences), Assistant Professor, Head of the International Education Management Department of the Institute of International Education Programs with St.Petersburg State Polytechnic University, Vice-President of the Association of Vice-Principals for International Relations of the St.Petersburg Higher Institutions, author of over 150 scientific papers; scientific sphere - international aspects of activities of education institutions.

Marina Nikolayevna Zhitnikova, Moscow State University named after M.V. Lomonosov (graduated 19??), Top Specialist of the Service of Expert Examination and Recognition of the Credentials with the Center of International Education of Moscow State University, author of 7 articles, scientific sphere - problems of appraisal and recognition of certificates of education.


Source: E.V. Shevchenko, M.N. Zhitnikova. Methods of Appraisal of the Chinese Certificates of Education for Academic Recognition // Scientific Bulletin of Moscow State Technical University of Civil Aviation. - 2003. - No. 67. - 170 pp. - P. 27-34


PRC - People's Republic of China.
MSTU GA - Moscow State Technical University of Civil Aviation.
MSU - Moscow State University.
USSR - Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
TV - Tele vision.

Notes and reformatting by:
Е.V. Shevchenko,
Head of the International Education Management Department,
Institute of International Educational Programmes,
St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University

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