Yunan University, an almost a century old institution in Yunan province, has some 800 foreign students from the Asean region, of which only a meagre 12 are from Cambodia.
Cambodian students, as well as other students from traditionally non-Mandarin speaking nations, have found it tough to break the language barrier and stringent qualifications to gain admission to this prestigious university.
Professor Lei Wei, the dean of the School of International Education, told some 50 media representatives from more than a dozen countries that most of the foreign students in the university were under different scholarship programs.
“We have 5,000 students and ten faculties but only 12 students are from Cambodia, out of the approximately 800 students from the Southeast Asia region, where the largest number of students come from Thailand,” he said. “The biggest impediment to gaining entry into this university is the inability to speak Mandarin.”
“As such, almost all the foreign students enrol for language courses and graduate with a degree in language before moving on to masters or other degrees in specific fields,” he added.
Mr Wei said that while some Chinese universities, such as the Tianjin Polytechnic University, have announced plans to establish a large university in Phnom Penh, Yunan University would not follow suit.
He stressed that there were many considerations to establish a branch of Yunan University outside China as the Chinese Ministry of Education had stringent requirements and criteria.
“We would rather focus on twinning and exchange programs to breakthrough these barriers and then look into a long-term sustainable strategy to expand overseas,” Mr Wei said. “To go abroad, we have to be sure of our acceptance in the host country, the number of potential students which we may possibly attract, and the cost factors involved in overseas expansion.”
“It would be more prudent for students who are eager to pursue their education not only in Yunan University but any other Chinese university in China to gain proficiency in the Mandarin language as irrespective of courses being offered in English, Chinese will come to play an integral part in their overall education,” he added.
Yunan University was established in 1922 when it was then a private university called Dondy University. In 1934, it was renamed as Provincial Yunan University.