—Claims by a privately run college in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong that it provides state-backed diplomas have sparked angry demonstrations by hundreds of students, as a top scientific institution lashes out at the use of its name.
More than 1,000 students from a college claiming links with the Guangdong University of Finance's Nanhu campus and the Guangdong Advanced School of Machine Technology gathered outside college offices Saturday, shouting "We want to withdraw!"
They said they had arrived and paid tuition fees of 7,700 yuan (U.S. $1,127), only to find that there were no guarantees they would receive the degree certificate advertised in promotional literature.
Security guards rushed to calm the angry crowd, as the institution which advertisements promised would award the students their diplomas denied any links with the college.
"They have no relationship with our college," an employee who answered the phone in the administration office of the Guangdong University of Finance said Monday.
"They used our name without permission. We don't even know how this could have happened."Booming market
A source close to the dispute said the school has since apologized and returned the students' tuition fees.
Private colleges have boomed in China in the last decade, enrolling those who fall short in highly competitive exams required for admission to prestigious and far more tightly regulated state universities.
The newly emerging private sector has led to widespread confusion in China over academic awards and accreditation.
In 2007, thousands of military academy students rioted in Anhui province after news spread that the government wouldn't recognize diplomas awarded to private students.
And the previous year, armed police were called in to restore calm at a textile technical college in Jiangxi whose students were angry over accreditation promises that failed to materialize.Original reporting in Mandarin by Qiao Long and Fang Yuan. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated by Chen Ping. Written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.