Home> Latest

Nation pushes enrollment in professional master's degree

China Daily| Updated: December 21, 2023 L M S



Practical skills underlined in reforming postgraduate education programs

China's enrollment for professional master's degrees, which emphasize the practical application of knowledge and skills, will be increased to about two-thirds of all master's degree programs by 2025, the Education Ministry said during a news conference on Tuesday.

Ren Youqun, head of the ministry's department of degree management and postgraduate education, said China had 3.65 million postgraduate students in 2022, the second highest in the world.

However, public opinion that an academic master's degree, which focuses on academic and scientific research, is more valuable than a professional master's degree should be changed, Ren said.

Postgraduate professional degrees target the needs of specific occupational fields, cultivating talent with strong professional abilities that can creatively engage in practical work.

The training aims to suit demands in the job market, which has become more competitive as the number of China's college graduates in 2024 is expected to reach 11.79 million, a year-on-year increase of 210,000, according to the ministry.

The ministry released a new guideline promoting the classified development of postgraduate students, stipulating that the two types of master's degrees are equally important and China will continuously increase the proportion of postgraduate students with professional degrees.

Higher institutes that are newly allowed to grant master's degrees should only carry out education for the professional type that highlights vocational practice, the guideline said.

By 2025, enrollment for the professional master's degree is expected to reach two-thirds of the master's degree programs, while admission for professional doctoral degrees will also be dramatically increased, it added.

Statistics from the ministry show that the proportion of enrollment in professional master's degrees surpassed 60 percent in 2019.

Jiang Peixue, vice-president of Tsinghua University, said currently 74 percent of master's students at the university are pursuing professional degrees.

Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said the difference between the two degree types in terms of standards, enrollment, training and teaching resources is the key in implementing the new guideline.

In recent years, the public has been questioning the importance and quality of professional master's degrees, which can usually be achieved in two years, one year shorter than academic master's degrees.

In response, some higher learning institutes in China have prolonged the term for professional master's degrees to three years. "I think that's debatable as the two degree types have different orientations," Xiong said.

Simply prolonging the study term can't settle the dispute or improve the status of a professional master's degree, he said.

"The new guideline proposes classified development, pointing out a path for promoting professional master's degrees," he added.

For instance, the guide outlined the evaluation of dissertations, specifying that those for professional degrees, both master's and doctoral, should concentrate on a student's practical ability to independently solve problems in a professional field.

It encourages the implementation of multiple dissertations or practical assessments for professional degrees, such as case analysis reports and product design.

About 4.38 million applicants have registered for this year's postgraduate studies entrance exam in China, which is scheduled for this weekend. The number of applicants has fallen by 7.6 percent, the first drop in nine years, figures from the ministry show.