Degrees from all Penn State campuses recognized by Chinese Ministry of Education

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Chinese Ministry of Education recently changed Penn State’s listing on their website of American universities to read, “The Pennsylvania State University.” Prior to a few weeks ago, Penn State’s entry read, “The Pennsylvania State University (University Park).” This means that diplomas from Penn State, University-wide, are now recognized by the Ministry of Education in China. 

Before this change, there was a concern that students from China who received a degree from a Commonwealth Campus would not have that degree recognized by China's Ministry of Education, since the Ministry only officially recognized University Park. This change means that Chinese students can remain on their preferred Penn State campus without the fear that their degree will not be considered valid in China.

This change marks further recognition that Penn State is “One University, Geographically Dispersed” — as recognized by Penn State’s accreditation body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. 

“More global recognition like this benefits the University as a whole,” said Jennifer Campbell, director of Global Operations and Learning in Global Programs. “It will allow us to better recruit students and to ensure they’re getting a quality education.” 

This change came as the result of many years of work and meetings beginning in 2015. Anna Marshall, global education coordinator at Penn State Harrisburg, was among the first to begin the process. 

“It all started when some students came to my office with concerns about their diploma,” Marshall said. “They were afraid the diploma would not be recognized [after graduation]. So, I reached out to the Consulate General of People’s Republic of China in New York.” 

“The first meeting, held in New York, with myself and Mukund Kukarni (now-retired chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg), and Marie-Louise Abram, director of external programs, with then-Educational Counselor Yongji Xu, was productive,” said Marshall. But at the meeting Marshall learned why the Chinese government had only "Penn State – University Park" listed: It was what was listed on the Middle States accreditation report. 

“This made things difficult,” Marshall said. 

Years passed with little progress until the issue came up during the first official meeting with the new Educational Counselor, Jun Yang, at Penn State Harrisburg’s 2019 Lunar New Year Celebration. John Mason Jr., the chancellor of Penn State Harrisburg, and Omid Ansary, senior associate dean for Academic Affairs; Marie-Louise Abram, director of External Programs; and Marshall received Yang and brought this issue to Yang’s attention.  

“More global recognition like this benefits the University as a whole. It will allow us to better recruit students and to ensure they’re getting a quality education.”

— Jennifer Campbell, director of Global Operations and Learning in Global Programs at Penn State

Then, this past summer, a delegation from Penn State visited China for the Pre-Departure Orientation with paid-accepted students in Beijing. Among that delegation were Marshall, Campbell, and Marty Trethewey, director of the Global Engagement Network. They set a meeting with the new deputy director-general of the Department of International Education and Exchange at the Ministry of Education in China — who was none other than Yongji Xu, the previous educational counselor.  

Armed with renewed friendship and a signed letter from Interim Vice Provost for Global Programs Rob Crane, the group's meeting went smoothly. Xu asked for an official letter from Penn State President Eric Barron regarding the request and the updated Middle State accreditation.   

“They even received us to the meeting early,” Marshall said. “That’s unheard of! When we walked out of the meetings, we looked at each other and said, ‘I think we did it!’” 

After the meeting, Campbell emailed an official letter from Barron and the updated Middle State accreditation to Xu and his staff in China.  

Soon after, Marshall received the official call that the Ministry of Education would be changing Penn State’s designation. Furthermore, they would add Penn State's name in Mandarin and the University's main website to the official Ministry of Education web page.   

Now, Marshall said, the benefits for Chinese students at Commonwealth Campuses are immense. 

“Now a student who would like to complete their degree at their campus can stay without any worry,” she said. “If you like your advisers, your departments or research projects, or if you want to save a little bit of money, you can stay, whereas before some of these students felt pressure to transfer to UP (University Park).” 

Marshall said that students and staff are excited about the change, sharing the news on their personal social media; and even an officer from the Ministry of Education in China shared the news on her WeChat. 

“It’s really very exciting," said Marshall. "I would like to thank Jennifer [Campbell], Dr. Crane, and Dr. Barron for all of their support for this process.” 

For more information on this change, contact Anna Marshall, [email protected].