The Ministry of Education has asked universities with advanced degree programs to strengthen their supervision of student enrollment and management after a few high-profile academic misconduct cases tarnished the reputation of the country's postgraduate education.
The ministry has zero tolerance for academic misconduct, such as plagiarism, and universities should scrutinize every step of graduate writing, from choosing research topics to dissertation defense, it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Any misconduct will be dealt with seriously, and academic papers, theses and dissertations will be shared with other institutions to add more scrutiny, it said.
The academic misconduct case of actor Zhai Tianlin has shed light on the lack of supervision of academic writing among postgraduate students. Zhai, who was found guilty of academic misconduct, has been stripped of his doctoral degree at Beijing Film Academy. Peking University has removed Zhai from its postdoctoral research program. Chen Yi, Zhai's supervisor at the academy, has been barred from supervising any doctoral candidates.
Supervisors should serve as role models for advanced degree candidates, and any supervisor found with ethics violations or covering up misconduct will be dealt with seriously, the ministry said.
Universities and education authorities should also carry out more inspections and random checks on students' academic papers and hold violators accountable, it added.
The ministry has given warnings to the presidents of two universities for mistakes that occurred during the 2019 national postgraduate entrance examination.
A teacher at Southwest University in Chongqing who was responsible for compiling physical geography test papers was found leaking the papers before the exam; and students taking an exam on solid-state physics at the University of Electronic Science and Technology in Chengdu were given the wrong test papers.
Universities should ensure the "absolute safety" and fairness of exams and make sure there are no mistakes in them and that the papers are not leaked, the ministry said.
Enrollment interviews must be recorded, and teachers should give their scores independently and make no changes, it said.
Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, said academic integrity should be the most important standard for university students, yet its importance has not been stressed enough at Chinese universities.
"By solely focusing on Zhai, people are avoiding the real problem. Colleges and universities face great corruption problems, and that is what we should be looking into," Chu said.