Page last updated at 16:06 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 17:06 UK

Chinese 'bought French degrees'

Students (file pic)
The number of Chinese at French universities has soared

An official at a French university says he was offered a huge bribe to award degrees falsely to Chinese students.

Pierre Gensse, of the degree-awarding body at Toulon University's Institute for Business Administration, said he refused the bribe and informed police.

Police and the education ministry are investigating claims that hundreds of Chinese students have bought degrees, in a scam going back four years.

A prosecutor said other universities might also be involved.

"It would appear that these practices occur elsewhere in France," Jacques Dallest, the state prosecutor in Marseille, told the AFP news agency.

No charges have yet been brought over the case.

The education ministry said in a statement that a report would be filed later this month that would "shed full light on the conditions in which degrees were delivered, especially to foreign students, at Toulon University".

Le Monde newspaper said this week that students were able to buy degrees for around 2,700 euros (£2,400).

Mr Gensse told France-Inter radio that he had been offered a bribe of 100,000 euros to give degrees to Chinese students despite their "lamentable" grades.

He said it was "impossible" that senior staff at Toulon could have colluded to give academic honours in return for money.

The number of Chinese students taking places in France has soared in recent years, from 1,934 in 1999 to 17,132 in 2006, making them the third-largest foreign student group after Moroccans and Algerians, according to the CampusFrance study group.

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