In the West, we call them "diploma mills." Before 1949, some universities in China catered to the warlords and merchants. Rich Chinese could send their students off to "schools" where students would party down for four years and receive a degree.
In China, the term "ye ji" (literally "wild chicken") is a slang term for prostitute. Therefore, "wild chicken universities" refers to the warlord-era pay-your-money get-your-degree schools that eroded the value of a diploma. Since 1949, China’s government has been adamant in not letting wild chicken universities rise again.
A main function of the gao kao, their all important annual college entrance exam, is not just to determine who gets to go to college in China, but also to ensure that all students who do go to China’s universities are their top scholars. No amount of money can buy a low-performing student’s entry into China’s universities.
That national exam unfortunately leads to massive memorization and stifles creativity in high school teaching. An effort in 2010 to circumvent this teach-to-the-test system by allowing principals to recommend creative students who did not pass the gao kao with high scores—failed. The main reason was the public feared that favoritism and corruption would allow inferior students to enter the university system. But the risk of generating wild chicken universities was also on education officials’ minds.
China has tried to keep a close watch on the quality of its growing for-profit schools, including foreign-sponsored operations. Some have been closed. They strictly limit online courses to a small group of in-service refresher courses for advanced professionals.
To find wild chicken universities, you will have to come to the United States where diploma mills have been sprouting like weeds.
The new generation of American non-profit universities are spending more on advertising than they do on faculty. Some pay recruiters by the head to bring in any warm body, and even recruit from homeless shelters. Encouraging "students" that are rarely college-able to take out government loans, these wild chicken operations may buy up bonafide small liberal arts colleges in order to gain their legitimacy and accreditation, and turn them into convenient anytime-anywhere online operations.
I have previously described how the Common Core national test system is coming to most states by 2015 and will destroy teacher professionalism and student creativity by promoting teach-to-the-test memorization. The sad aspect of adopting a national test is that it will not bring the one and only advantage of that system: excluding the lowest performers from college.
In the U.S., the looming Common Core national tests will not be used to cull out the non-college-able. It will only be used as a blunt weapon to punish teachers and schools for any student’s low performance. Unlike in China, any American student with a heartbeat and a credit card will still be able to enter most state universities and nearly all non-profits. Indeed, in this tuition-driven era, many schools will waive the heartbeat requirement.
At international education conferences, the word is already out. With an increasing number of low-value courses and worthless degrees, the United States is becoming the main roost for wild chicken universities.