Famed uni caught admitting well-connected transfer students

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-2-1 19:53:03

Parents consult employees from Hunan University during a college enrollment consultation fair held in Beijing last year. Photo: CFP

Hunan University, a well- known university in Changsha, Hunan Province, announced that it had reversed a previous decision allowing 17 graduate transfer students to enter the school.

The announcement came after reports disclosed that the school had accepted 17 students from less prestigious universities for reasons like "I am not accustomed to the weather" and "I am allergic to oil painting," which triggered public questions as to possible corruption at the school, reported the Xinhua News Agency.

The statement also ran contradictory to a previous public announcement by the school saying that the procedures for accepting the 17 graduates were without question in accordance with the China Ministry of Education(MOE)'s polices on graduate school transfers.

Verbal reprimands were given to the Party chief of the university and three other officials, including the school president, according to a statement issued by the MOE on Friday, Xinhua reported.

The dramatic about-face raised further questions about the identities of the transferred students, the reasons for their acceptance, and possible corruption behind their transfers.

"Powerful" backgrounds  

The Xinhua report quoted an insider at the school saying that among the 17 students, "some are from families who work in the educational department; some are children of Hunan University's employees, while others have close relationships with members of the educational system."

At least two students are siblings of the school's employees. Another is the daughter of an official in a local education department, and still another is the relative of a official retired from the local audit department, reported thepaper.cn.  

Detailed information of the 17 transferred graduates has circulated on the Internet, including the addresses of students, and their answers to the question "are you the child of a university's employee?"

A student surnamed Yang from Hunan Agriculture University wrote "yes" on the column, saying they were the relative of "Xiao Xiaomin, [who works at] the kindergarten affiliated with Hunan University," read the list.

Xiao currently is a Party official with Hunan University and also the head of the school's affiliated kindergarten, according to thepaper.cn.

Thepaper.cn also reported that another student surnamed Zhang from Jishou University is the child of an employee named Gao Zhan who works at Hunan University's graduate school. A school insider later confirmed the information.

"I am also a victim and have nothing to say," said Gao, when asked for comment.

Another student surnamed Pan from Xiangtan University was confirmed to be the son of an official in a local education department. The official told the Beijing News that "my son transferred to Hunan University to take care of me. This is in accordance with procedure."

"I am not surprised to hear about that, as when I was an undergraduate student, there were two students who have transferred from other low-ranking schools to our university," a student with the law school at the university surnamed Li told the Global Times.

One was able to transfer from Hunan Normal University to Hunan University because his uncle is a high-level official at the latter, said Li.

Invisible welfare

Allowing children of the university's employees to transfer into the school has always been seen as a form of "invisible welfare," said an administrative staff member at a key university in Hunan.

The staff said that employees who have close relationship with school's leaders stand a better chance of helping their children transfer into the school.

"If their children went to a school with lower admission scores, they would help them transfer to a better university by utilizing their relationship network," said the staff, adding that the possibility of success depends on their "working" performance, which might involve trading power for money.

Another insider at Hunan University told Xinhua that successful transfers require the approval of the two schools and the local educational department. However, "as instructions on how to submit a transfer application have never been conveyed to the public, many students who are qualified do not know how to apply, while a few successfully submit the application after getting inside information." 

"I got my bachelor's and master's degree at Hunan University but never saw an open document telling us how to apply for a transfer," said one graduate.

Loophole in the system

According to the MOE policies, college students who suffer illness or other "special difficulties" that make them unable to continue studying at the original school could apply for a transfer.

The transfer has to be conducted between the same ranking universities or from high-ranking to low-ranking universities, and it also requires approval from original school, transferred school as well as local education department.

"However, the current policy fails to elaborate what is a 'special difficulty,'" Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told the Beijing News, adding that the procedure for changing schools lacks supervision and should be open to the public.

The vague regulations on transfers and weak supervision have given powerful or rich people the opportunity to help their children or relatives transfer schools, making the system a breeding ground for corruption, said Xiong.

"Some people abuse their power to gain huge profits, which harm the public interest and destroy the fairness of talent selection system," Liu Fuxing, vice president of Northwest Normal University, told the People's Daily.

As for the university decision requiring all 17 students to return to their original schools, Xiong said that they may just result in new inequity. "Some of the students might meet the requirements for transfers. The school's decision seems a little hasty."

Xiong called for a thorough investigation of every student involved, keeping the qualified students while punishing those who violated regulations. 

"Schools should establish an independent recruitment committee to formulate regulations and supervise implementation in a bid to avoid interference by administrative staff," said Xiong. 

Newspaper headline: Transferring blame

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