Nation’s universities need to curb unequal treatments

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/2/28 0:38:39

Tsinghua University has been bombarded with criticisms these days for its newly released admission policies on international students. As one of the top two universities in China, Tsinghua, known for its high entry threshold for domestic students, is reportedly going to remove the entrance exams for international applicants. The university is immediately accused of being unfair and discriminative toward Chinese students, with many complaining that "being foreign" is more important than years of hard work to gain admission.

Last week, an article of yours questioned whether China can build world-class universities, accusing China's higher educational system of valuing quantity over quality in the process of internationalization. But, eliminating the entrance exam doesn't necessarily mean that the barrier to entry for international applicants is lower than for their Chinese counterparts.

According to Tsinghua's enrollment guide for undergraduate international students, applicants have to pass HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test) Level 5, submit academic transcripts and references, and go through strict evaluations and interviews to be admitted. Apart from excellent academic performances, an abundant community work experience is also valued in the selection process. In the meantime, with easier application procedures, the new regulation will attract applications from more outstanding international students. The more applicants there are, the more difficult it is to be admitted. The new admission policy is believed to be more effective than entrance exams.

To be frank, dropping the test-taking policy is a step forward to building world-class universities. A number of top-ranking educational institutions, for instance, the University of Cambridge, Harvard University and the University of Oxford, all encourage international candidates to apply online for their courses. Entrance exam may be an effective way to evaluate the applicants' academic performances, but community work and other professional qualifications sometimes carry more weight in the selection process of well-known universities, which can be reflected more directly on resumes and in interviews.

Many netizens criticize Tsinghua's regulation for being unfair to domestic candidates. In fact, the university's enrollment of undergraduate international applicants uses a completely different quota system from that of the Chinese candidates. The new regulation will have no effect on the application process of domestic students.

Despite this, public outrage toward Tsinghua's new policy is quite understandable. After all, the national college entrance examination, or gaokao, is the first and foremost chance for most ordinary Chinese families to climb up the social ladder. The percentage of domestic candidates admitted to Tsinghua's undergraduate studies was only 0.03 percent in 2016. The grueling exams pose great psychological and physical pressure on teenagers as well. It is not surprising that Tsinghua's decision to abandon the exam policy to international students sparked a huge public uproar in China.

A lack of public understanding is one of the most serious impediments for Tsinghua to bring the new regulations into practice. Public support is a prerequisite to reform. Tsinghua and the parties concerned should put more efforts to soothe public dissatisfactions.

The author argued that Chinese universities categorize international and domestic students into different groups in administration and management, and these "man-made psychological segregations" may impede China's ambition to be an international center for education. It is true that treatments of domestic and international students are different in China, with, for instance, the former sharing a bedroom with five or even seven other students, while the latter enjoy an en-suite alone.

Therefore, Chinese universities should try to remove these unfair divisions between students. Domestic students deserve the same standards of facilities and equipment as their international counterparts. After all, integration is of vital importance for China's higher educational system.

Tsinghua's new regulation itself is reasonable, but more efforts should be devoted to curbing unequal treatments in Chinese universities to soothe public dissatisfactions.

Liu Lulu, a freelance writer based in Beijing


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