Ministry looks to alleviate shortages in fields such as chip and software design
The Ministry of Education launched a pilot enrollment plan for colleges on Wednesday that will replace China's independent enrollment scheme this year.
The "strengthening basic disciplines plan" at 36 top universities focuses on students with special talents in majors in basic disciplines including math, physics, chemistry, biology, history, philosophy and ancient characters.
The plan aims to encourage universities to enroll quality students who will be able to alleviate talent shortages in high-end chip and software design, intelligent technology, new materials and advanced manufacturing, and the social sciences, the ministry said.
High school graduates in China normally need to take the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, to be admitted to a university.
Independent enrollment was added as an alternative admission method in 2003 to allow some key universities to enroll students based on subjective criteria.
Students will be able to sign up for the basic disciplines plan in April. After they take the gaokao in early June, the 36 universities will release the list of students qualifying for the plan based on their gaokao scores. The ministry said they should then give those students written and physical tests and interviews before releasing final enrollment lists by July 5.
Student evaluation will be based on a combination of gaokao results, the results of basic discipline tests conducted by universities, and comprehensive quality results provided by high schools. The gaokao score will remain the most important criterion, accounting for more than 85 percent of the final result, the ministry said.
Students admitted through the basic disciplines plan will be put in small, independent classes, with the best teaching resources and learning environment. They will also be given preferential treatment in pursuing postgraduate studies, government sponsored overseas study and scholarships, it said.
Ninety universities previously allocated 5 percent of their enrollment slots to students with special talents, such as those excelling in science competitions and sports. High school graduates admitted via the independent enrollment program enjoyed privileges including lower admission thresholds after the gaokao or priority in selecting majors.
More than 20,000 students were admitted under the program every year.
Chen Zhiwen, editor-in-chief of EOL, China's largest online education portal, said that rather than only focusing on student enrollment, the basic disciplines plan stresses cultivating high-end talent for the country's development, as talent in basic disciplines is very important for breakthroughs in key technologies.
"Compared with independent enrollment, the new plan has also significantly reduced the number of eligible universities, leaving less room for malpractice and corruption," Chen said.
The gaokao is a highly competitive and stressful test, and in some provinces with large numbers of high school graduates, a single point can separate more than 1,000 students. The exams create a lot of anxiety among parents and students hoping to be admitted to the best universities.