U of C offends Chinese government

Academic degrees from the University of Calgary may no longer be recognized in China because the Chinese government is upset the university gave an honourary degree to the Dalai Lama last year.

Loses accreditation

Chinese students Ben Wu and Jai Liu hope to still find jobs when they return home. ((CBC))
Academic degrees from the University of Calgary may no longer be recognized in China because that country's government is upset the Dalai Lama was given an honourary degree last December by the university.

"The University of Calgary has been removed from one of the minister of education's accredited institution lists from China," university spokesperson Colleen Turner said Thursday.

"We have offended our Chinese partners by the very fact of bringing in the Dalai Lama, and we have work to resolve that issue."

She said the university knew that its decision to give the Dalai Lama an honourary degree could cause controversy.

Tibet is controlled by China. The Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader revered among the people of  Tibet, has fought for Tibet's independence.

The University of British Columbia has also given the Dalai Lama an honourary degree. But it has not been delisted by the Chinese government.

Turner said the U of C is reaching out to officials and partner institutions in China to try to deal with the situation.

Nearly 600 students affected

There are nearly 600 students from mainland China and Hong Kong studying at the university.

Ben Wu and Jai Liu are both in the final year of their bachelor degrees.

They said they came to Calgary four years ago from China because they had heard great things about the university.

"The University of Calgary is a famous school. Everybody knows that," Wu said Thursday.

School officials are trying to figure out what this decision will mean for current Chinese students and alumni.

"Obviously, we are concerned for them," said Meg Martin, of the university's students' union. "These students already paid three times more than the average student for their tuition, so we are concerned and we are dismayed."

But Wu and Liu aren't that worried about the decision, and they believe it's just more Chinese propaganda against the Dalai Lama.

"I don't think that's the truth," Wu said. "It is a rumour,  just a rumour."

 Liu said even if it is true, students who get jobs with private Chinese companies won't be hurt.

"They all know this university, and they all accept this university's degree," she said.

But another student from mainland China said she is afraid she won't be able to find a job when she returns home.

"I'm international and I'm paying triple the tuition, and that's a lot of money, and my parents are the ones paying for that," said Jessie, who would give only her first name.

 "I just don't want to waste all that money because they work really hard to support me."

Jessie, a third-year student, said she knew the Chinese government would react harshly to the Dalai Lama's visit to the university.