[photopress:studentsmaynotwritetheses.jpg,full,alignright]A recent report in the Beijing Morning Post suggest the bachelor’s thesis may be losing its relevancy with many undergraduates putting it low on their priorities list.
(This is not confined to China. In the UK the final degree itself is losing its meaning. While at university students used to agonize whether they would get a 2.1, a 2.2 or, disaster, a 3rd, they found employers generally simply did not care. What they are interested in is the fact the applicant went to university and completed a degree course.)
In China, in their final year of studying, many students seem more focussed on finding a good job in the unique job market which exists in China, then in getting a good degree. This has led to some some experts urging the scrapping of the thesis altogether.
(Note that there may be some bias in this view. Theses have to be marked. This is quite hard work. Almost any professor would do almost anything to get out of this drudgery. To suggest it is effectively non-essential work may not be totally disinterested advice.)
During their final semester in college, students see many demands on their time such as engaging in job interviews, employment fairs or internships and this makes their theses take second place. (As the writer is close to someone currently writing a thesis for a degree, he is speaking from personal experience. There is simply no excuse too trivial to allow putting off writing a final thesis. My argument that I write more words than that every week of my life is not met with total enthusiasm.)
Plagiarism is also becoming rife with the Internet being a popular source for people to copy vast passages of text, with little or no research of their own. (Again, there is nothing new in this. It is referred to in both Cambridge and Oxford in the eighteenth century. All that has happened is that the Internet has made it easier.)
One college student said, ‘A good job can benefit me in the future, but what can a good academic thesis do for me?’
Many teachers are sympathetic, seeing that finding a job and securing their future takes priority over submitting a thesis — which the teacher will have to mark. Some professors, speaking anonymously, revealed that they have regularly pared down the value of the thesis in order to better accommodate students’ needs.
Tu Yanguo, a professor at Huazhong Normal University, said scrapping the bachelor thesis altogether would be preferable than simply to go through the motions. As higher education has attracted a larger chunk of society, he said — in an argument that would not meet with universal approval — thesis composition has lost its value, especially since it is often unrelated to one’s future vocation.
Tao Dongfen, a professor at Beijing Capital Normal University, echoed that although the thesis should not be mandatory to completing a degree, the skills that are learned in so doing remained relevant and should be assimilated throughout a student’s college education.