In China, qualifications and degrees are two separate types of credentials represented by separate documents – Qualification Certificate and Degree Certificate respectively. Qualification, also named as diploma or graduation certificate, is a state-recognition of the holder’s education experience. Literally speaking, Chinese qualification certificate is closer to foreign degree certificate, as both are connected to diplomas and credentials. Qualification represents one’s formal educational experience and the level of education institution he or she has attended, which may be primary school level, secondary school level or higher education level. Qualifications are recorded in personal archives and connected to compensation in China.
The qualification certificate system began in 1950, while the degree certificate system started in 1981. Normally students are awarded both qualifications and degrees after completing undergraduate, master or doctoral level study successfully. Since there is no Zhuanke (Junior College level) degree, Zhuanke graduates are only conferred qualification without degree.
Degree is not equal to qualification; degree could be awarded as an honor, which does not necessarily represent one’s actual learning experience. Besides, there are some short-term training programs being able to offer degrees, which do not have the right to award qualifications. Such cases that just award degree without giving qualification only appear in master level but not in undergraduate level education.
Although a qualification holder does not always hold a degree either, qualification is more important and more widely-used than degree in China. Chinese students and employers understand and are aware of such situation. In China, the qualification is required to be verified for the application of Post-graduate Entrance Exam, National Judicial Exam, Civil Servants Exam, and employment. So now there is a difference that the qualification is more valued domestically, while the degree is evaluated more in foreign countries, due to the different educational system and insufficient understanding. Statistically, in 2012, there were around 10.96 million students received qualifications and one-third of that number got degrees.
China Higher Education Student Information and Career Center (CHESICC) is the only organization authorized by Chinese Ministry of Education to provide qualification verification service. Its database contains approximately 720 million records with application information, national college entrance examination scores, enrollment records, qualification data, and employment information. This service is used for employment, certification, student loans, credit card applications, job applications, overseas study, and the Chinese Service Center for Scholarly Exchange.
CHESICC’s information service has dramatically improved China’s education credibility. In 2012, over 70 million data were verified and nearly 3 million online verification reports were given. Demand for online verification reports increased by 50% in 2012, while the request for paper verification reports was stable. Over the last 10 years, the percentage of fake or unrecognized qualifications has decreased dramatically.