Concerns in China over foreign students’ ‘preferential’ access

Country is the latest to wonder whether separate admissions processes for international students are fair

October 26, 2016
Red carpet
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There are concerns in China that students with foreign passports are gaining relatively easy access to the country’s most prestigious institutions, mirroring fears about unfair admissions procedures in other countries.

The state-controlled Global Times reported that ethnically Chinese students with overseas passports gained via family emigration are winning university places without having to take the notoriously competitive gao kao university entrance test that domestic students must endure.

From this year, foreign applicants to Tsinghua University in Beijing will not have to take a standardised writing test for undergraduate courses, the newspaper reported. And even in previous years, the entry tests were far easier than the gao kao, it said.

“In general, anyone in our school can get good scores in these tests. As ethnic Chinese, we are taking advantage of the tests. And more importantly, the test is much less competitive than the gao kao,” one student was quoted as saying.

But others defended the policy. One anonymous Chinese Canadian student, who had moved back to China in recent years, said that for “those who have already got a certificate from prestigious schools in the US, Canada, studying in Tsinghua is more about learning about Chinese culture and Chinese society, instead of just getting a degree from Tsinghua”.

Competition for entry to top universities in China is in many cases far greater than in Western countries, with Tsinghua’s economics faculty receiving 300,000 applications for 100 places.

Concerns about how foreign students gain places at prestigious universities are not limited to China. The Global Times also cited Japanese newspaper reports that Chinese students who had failed the gao kao were filling up places at top Japanese universities.

In 2012, a row about international students “jumping the queue” broke out in the UK after an undercover journalist filmed an agent in Beijing promising that they could get a student into Cardiff University with three C grades at A level, despite the normal entry requirement being AAB. Cardiff said that the agent had “misrepresented” its admissions procedures.

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