HANGZHOU, Feb. 2 -- Soon after arriving in Britain for her post-graduate study, Wang Fang (not a real name) found her microblog filled with ads touting a peculiar kind of "academic aid."
Chinese expat students with poor English or academic performance need not worry about essay writing, the ads said, as they offer ghostwriting services for a course essay at a price of 100 pounds per 1,000 words, and over 1,000 pounds for an entire thesis.
The business is popular among the well-off, as the London School of Economics graduate often heard about Chinese students idling away their years in Britain but successfully graduating by hiring ghostwriters.
"One student-turned British ghostwriter told me some Chinese gave generous amount of money and often brought in other clients," Wang said. "By completing an essay in two or three days, they could easily make a handsome income."
Wang's observation might be common among the ever-growing legion of Chinese students in foreign colleges.
On China's e-commerce platform Taobao.com, a search of "essay ghostwriting for expat students" leads to nearly 100 entries on such services.
Another website said it had a group of Chinese and foreign master and doctoral degree holders capable of ghostwriting in a range of disciplines, including business, management and media.
The website requires a down payment but ensures its clients make the final installment after the article passes a computer program designed to detect plagiarism, a website service worker said.
As more Chinese students pursue overseas education to "gild" their resumes, some students could not adjust to western education and had to turn to ghostwriting, said Zhang Kaiqi, who chairs the Chinese Students and Scholars Association of University College London.
The rampant chicanery also belies the excessive money in the country's overseas study craze, educators said. As many well-off students paid their entries into foreign colleges, some employed tricks for graduation.
"Some foreign universities care about making money out of students, so they have lax management on the students and are loose in granting them degrees," said Zhang Li, an official in charge of expat student services in the eastern city of Hangzhou.
The trend has already taken its toll on Chinese returnee students, many of whom now complain about their eroding credentials in China's job market.
"Many interviewers are not excited, but instead suspicious about our diplomas. It is very embarrassing," said Wu Yang, who will soon graduate from Japan's Waseda University.
A Hangzhou-based newspaper editor explained his concerns, "Some wealthy Chinese students spent their years abroad in beer and skittles, some could not even speak English well, yet they still managed to graduate."
"That's why I am cautious when recruiting them," he said.