Netizens complain admission for overseas undergrads has been eased
China's Tsinghua University said international students need to do more than just pass a Chinese proficiency test to apply for admission to the school, after netizens complained of preferential policies toward foreigners.
An article titled "Foreigners can go to Tsinghua University without examination? Ten years of hard work cannot compete with foreign citizenship" went viral on February 13. The article claimed that international students can apply for an undergraduate degree at Tsinghua University without sitting any examination in 2017, while before they had to pass four or five examinations.
According to an enrollment guide for undergraduate international students on the university's website, international students need to pass HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) level 5, which means they can recognize 2,500 Chinese characters.
The university also requires academic transcripts and references, and says students are only chosen after strict evaluations and interviews. At the start of the 2015 academic year, there were 3,380 international students from 119 countries at Tsinghua, the website says.
The new standard aims to attract more excellent international students, but increases the difficulty of getting a place compared to the former test-taking policy, Tsinghua told the People's Daily. The university has attracted more international students at undergraduate level in recent years.
A Tsinghua engineering graduate, who asked for anonymity, told the Global Times that Tsinghua is particularly emphasizing its international reputation, so to conform with international standards, it adopted the same enrollment standards as Western countries.
But, he said it was important to manage the quota of international students and put a halt to Chinese students from changing their nationality just to get in.
The number of international students does not affect the number of places offered to Chinese students, said the People's Daily.
Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, said that Chinese universities are eager for international students as they benefit from a multicultural campus.
A university with a large number of international students can increase its creativity, Xiong said, adding that Chinese institutions fail to attract as many international students as world-leading universities like the US's Harvard University.
He also conceded that compared to the world's top universities, Tsinghua is less attractive to international students.
"That's the reason why Tsinghua is trying to become multicultural. Canceling the examination doesn't mean the university has lowered its standards, it doesn't reflect a student's potential either," he said.
Many universities are keen to attract foreign students as they pay much higher fees than domestic ones. Tsinghua's website says that international students have to pay 30,000 yuan ($4,370) in tuition per year, and a minimum of 40 yuan per day for accommodation, while the Tsinghua graduate said he only has to pay 12,000 yuan in tuition, and 1,200 yuan for accommodation per year.