Only the best

A change in ad­mis­sion re­quire­ments for in­ter­na­tion­als ap­ply­ing to Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties is caus­ing a de­bate over ed­u­ca­tion fairness be­tween lo­cal and for­eign stu­dents

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Chen Xi­meng

Francesca (pseu­do­nym), a sec­ond-year grad­u­ate stu­dent at Ts­inghua Univer­sity who hails from an English-speak­ing coun­try, re­cently no­ticed that her univer­sity was in the teeth of the storm for its 2017 ad­mis­sion poli­cies for for­eign un­der­grad­u­ate stu­dents.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port of the Peo­ple’s Daily in Fe­bru­ary, the pre­vi­ously re­quired

writ­ten test has been re­moved from the ad­mis­sion process. For­eign stu­dents can now ap­ply for un­der­grad­u­ate stud­ies by par­tic­i­pat­ing in an in­ter­view and sub­mit­ting ma­te­ri­als in­clud­ing high school aca­demic records, cer­tifi­cates such as SAT (the Scholas­tic Ap­ti­tude Test), or A-Level (the Gen­eral Cer­tifi­cate of Ed­u­ca­tion Ad­vanced Level), and a HSK cer­tifi­cate.

Some peo­ple think that with the new re­quire­ments, the school low­ers the thresh­old for ad­mit­ting for­eign stu­dents, which is there­fore un­fair to do­mes­tic stu­dents. Yet, Ts­inghua Univer­sity re­sponded that with the new pol­icy, the school will eval­u­ate the ap­pli­cants more com­pre­hen­sively in­stead of re­ly­ing merely on the re­sults of the writ­ten test, the re­port said.

“The new rule for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents’ ad­mis­sion is un­der­stand­able,” said Francesca.

Rec­og­niz­ing SAT and A-level with an in­ter­view will open more doors for stu­dents from dif­fer­ent back­grounds, she said.

“With this new ad­mis­sion pol­icy, more ex­cel­lent in­ter­na­tional stu­dents will come, which will slowly cre­ate more com­pe­ti­tion, and then only those who have the best abil­i­ties will be ad­mit­ted into Ts­inghua Univer­sity.”

In re­cent years, some Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties have re­formed for­eign stu­dent ad­mis­sion poli­cies, such as chang­ing re­quire­ments and launch­ing schol­ar­ship pro­grams in hope of at­tract­ing more qual­ity for­eign stu­dents.

Low­er­ing or rais­ing the bar?

Francesca chose to come to China to study in Ts­inghua Univer­sity be­cause she stud­ied Chi­nese in her un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree back in her coun­try. Af­ter com­ing to Bei­jing for a oneyear lan­guage ex­change, she was hooked and planned to re­turn n for her mas­ter’s de­gree.

Back in 2015 when she ap­plied for a mas­ter’s pro­gram at Ts­inghua, she knew it was a good univer­sity and was not sure if she would be able ble to meet their high h stan­dards. When she was in­formed that she e was ac­cepted, she was sur­prised.ur­prised

She said she could un­der­stand the pol­icy change at Ts­inghua.

“Ts­inghua is try­ing its best to be­come more glob­ally-minded, in­ter­na­tion­al­ized, and at­tract more in­ter­na­tional stu­dents,” she said.

Mak (pseu­do­nym), a 23-year-old Malaysian Chi­nese who was ad­mit­ted into the jour­nal­ism pro­gram for a bach­e­lor’s de­gree at Ren­min Univer­sity of China, also called Renda, in 2013, said can­cel­ing writ­ten tests does not mean throw­ing away all stan­dards or low­er­ing the bar. How­ever, many Chi­nese peo­ple still have blind faith in writ­ten tests.

The spokesper­son for Ts­inghua Univer­sity told the Peo­ple’s Daily that ap­pli­cants’ aca­demic per­for­mance, Chi­nese lan­guage pro­fi­ciency and com­pre­hen­sive abil­i­ties can be eval­u­ated more ef­fi­ciently un­der the new pol­icy.

He said the new pol­icy has raised the thresh­old, which is aimed to at­tract and se­lect more top-tier for­eign high school stu­dents from di­verse back­grounds. They also made the change to con­nect with well-known in­ter­na­tional uni­ver­si­ties and avoid a lack of re­li­a­bil­ity and va­lid­ity by us­ing one stan­dard test. “In re­cent years, more in­ter­na­tional stu­dents study at Ts­inghua due to China’s rapid devel­op­ment and our school’s rich re­sources. Af­ter the re­form, the pool for top-tier can­di­dates will be en­larged, which will in­crease com­pe­ti­tion,” he said in the re­port.

A de­bate of fairness

A fo­cus of the con­tro­versy is on ed­u­ca­tion fairness be­tween for­eign stu­dents (in­clud­ing eth­nic Chi­nese) and do­mes­tic stu­dents.

To re­fute the doubt that in­ter­na­tional schools di­vert re­sources away from do­mes­tic stu­dents, the spokesper­son with Ts­inghua Univer­sity said in the Peo­ple’s Daily re­port that the ad­mis­sions for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents will not oc­cupy the re­sources of do­mes­tic stu­dents. The num­ber of en­roll­ments for in­ter­na­tional stu­dents in 2017 is the same as pre­vi­ous years, as well as the poli­cies for schol­ar­ships.

Ac­cord­ing to reg­u­la­tions, eth­nic Chi­nese who hold a for­eign pass­port for at least four years and have lived in that coun­try for at least two years can also ap­ply for Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties as in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

Francesca has spo­ken with a few Chi­nese friends about the is­sue and they seem more an­noyed with the fact that Chi­nese na­tion­als can give up their cit­i­zen­ship and take up a for­eign pass­port in or­der to come to Ts­inghua.

“This is a loop­hole that Ts­inghua should ad­dress, as it is un­fair to other Chi­nese stu­dents

way thhrough gaokao to gain ad­mis­sion to Ts­inghua,” she said. As for en­sur­ing ed­u­ca­tion fairness for do­mes­tic and for­eign stu­u­dents, Stan­ley D. Nel, vice pres­i­dent of in­ter­naa­tional re­la­tions at the Univer­sity of San Franci­isco, who is re­spon­si­ble for ad­mis­sions in China a, said for their school, in­ter­na­tional stu­dents arre ex­tremely im­por­tant, be­cause they en­rich classs­room dis­cus­sions with their di­verse ex­peri­iences and per­spec­tives.

“Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties s have to make the case that the over­all qual­ity o one, in­clud­ing Chi­ne­sef ed­u­ca­tion for ev­eryby hav­ing for­eign­ers in tthe class,” he said.

He said the real prob­llem with this ques­tion is that it as­sumes a zero-sum game. It con­cep­tu­al­izes ed­u­ca­tion n as a fi­nite com­mod­ity to be handed out by univver­si­ties. It com­pletely ig­nores the role of studeents in ed­u­cat­ing them­selves through ac­tive par­rtic­i­pa­tion, and thus misses how much for­eiggn stu­dents can con­trib­ute to the ed­u­ca­tion of thheir class­mates.

At­tract­ing high-qual­i­tyy stu­dents

Ac­cord­ing to the 2016 6 Re­port on the Devel­op­ment of Chi­nese Stud­dents Study­ing Abroad is­sued by Cen­ter for Chi­ina and Glob­al­iza­tion, over the past 10 years, thhe num­ber of for­eign stu­dents com­ing to Chinna has been steadily in­creas­ing un­der the Onne Belt and One Road ini­tia­tive and a pas­sion ffor Chi­nese lan­guage learn­ing.

The re­port said in 2015, the num­ber of for­eign stu­dents reachedd around 398,000; most of them are from SSouth Korea, the US, Thai­land, Pak­istan, Indiia, Russia, In­done­sia, Ja­pan and France.

How­ever, over the past three years, there has been a drop in the growtth rate, in­clud­ing stu-

dents from Aus­tralia and the US. In ad­di­tion, China’s ra­tio of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, com­ing in at 0.46 per­cent, is also the low­est among eight top des­ti­na­tions for study­ing abroad, in­clud­ing Aus­tralia and the UK, the re­port said.

Rather than putting too much fo­cus on in­creas­ing the num­ber of stu­dents, the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion (MOE) and Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties are mak­ing moves to fo­cus more on qual­ity of in­ter­na­tional stu­dents and their ed­u­ca­tion.

In 2016, MOE launched the over­seas ed­u­ca­tion qual­ity cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tem to eval­u­ate and im­prove schools’ over­seas ed­u­ca­tion qual­ity, ac­cord­ing to a March re­port of learn­ com, an ed­u­ca­tion news por­tal.

Be­sides Ts­inghua, some schools, such as Pek­ing Univer­sity and Renda, also changed their tra­di­tional ad­mis­sion poli­cies into a more in­ter­na­tional process.

Tim, a Malaysian Chi­nese who has taken part in the ad­mis­sion pro­cesses of Pek­ing Univer­sity in 2015, re­called that the com­pe­ti­tion was fierce. The school has a very high re­quire­ment on aca­demic records. He also sub­mit­ted a re­sume, ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties in­tro­duc­tions and three rec­om­men­da­tion letters. Af­ter this, an ad­mis­sion group of 10 pro­fes­sors flew abroad for three rounds of in­ter­views, edu. re­ported in 2015. “The whole process is rea­son­able and fair,” Tim said.

Mak also found that over the past few years, Renda be­gan to ar­range in­ter­views and some Malaysians failed even though they spoke Chi­nese well.

An­other way to at­tract in­ter­na­tional stu­dents is en­larg­ing the scale of gov­ern­ment-funded schol­ar­ships by launch­ing dif­fer­ent pro­grams.

The sta­tis­tics from MOE is­sued on March 1 showed that in 2016, around 49,000 in­ter­na­tional stu­dents were awarded gov­ern­ment­funded schol­ar­ships, which ac­counted for 11 per­cent of all in­ter­na­tional stu­dents. Stu­dents from China’s sur­round­ing coun­tries and coun­tries that are in­volved in B&R ini­tia­tive can en­joy pref­er­en­tial ad­mis­sions poli­cies and schol­ar­ships, said the sohu re­port.

The way for­ward

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents and ad­mis­sions of­fi­cers think that schools and gov­ern­ments can es­tab­lish a more sci­en­tific eval­u­a­tion sys­tem, ex­pand pub­lic­ity and take on ed­u­ca­tion re­forms such as im­prov­ing the qual­ity of teach­ing in English, which can help bet­ter se­lect and at­tract more high-qual­ity stu­dents from over­seas. Francesca thinks that at this stage, with for­eign­ers still only mak­ing up a small num­ber of stu­dents at Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties, the re­quire­ments should not be too strict. Yet, it is still im­por­tant to have re­quire­ments that will en­sure that only those who are ded­i­cated to study­ing and learn­ing about China will be ad­mit­ted by top Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties. “Maybe adding an in­ter­view compo- nent would be good,” she said.

Nel also said he par­tic­u­larly liked the re­quired in­ter­view, which he as­sumed would do more than sim­ply test Chi­nese pro­fi­ciency, but gives a more in-depth eval­u­a­tion of can­di­dates’ strengths and weak­nesses.

Talk­ing about the rea­sons why some stu­dents do not want to come to China to study, he said many Western par­ents and stu­dents are con­cerned about air pol­lu­tion in China. His own univer­sity is hav­ing dif­fi­culty find­ing stu­dents who want to study abroad in Bei­jing, for ex­am­ple, be­cause of all the re­ports and pic­tures of air pol­lu­tion in the cap­i­tal. Sec­ond, there is a widely held be­lief that Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tion re­lies too much on mem­o­riza­tion.

Nel sug­gests if Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties want to at­tract top tal­ent, they will have to start recruiting se­ri­ously in the West.

“This means pro­duc­ing pro­fes­sional mar­ket­ing ma­te­ri­als that dis­pel myths about Chi­nese ed­u­ca­tion and speak to its strengths, par­tic­u­larly at the elite in­sti­tu­tions. They should also con­sider send­ing spe­cially trained re­cruiters to col­lege fairs abroad and to se­lect high schools and uni­ver­si­ties, just as Amer­i­can uni­ver­si­ties re­cruit in China. And, of course, they will have to of­fer ex­cel­lent schol­ar­ships.”

Francesca thinks the power of word of mouth is im­por­tant. En­sur­ing that cam­pus and aca­demic life are in­ter­est­ing and in­clu­sive for stu­dents will al­low uni­ver­si­ties to see more in­ter­na­tional stu­dents wish­ing to come to China.

“To do this, Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties need to fo­cus on the qual­ity of teach­ing in English to in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, as well as ways to bet­ter in­te­grate Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional stu­dents. I still feel that there is a quite a gap be­tween in­ter­na­tional and Chi­nese stu­dents that needs to be ad­dressed,” she said.

Some Chi­nese uni­ver­si­ties make changes in ad­mis­sion re­for­ma­tion to at­tract more high-qual­ity in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

Photo: IC

Pho­tos: IC

In­ter­na­tional stu­dents and ad­mis­sion ad­min­is­tra­tion sug­gest that schools launch a more rea­son­able eval­u­a­tion sys­tem, en­gage in more pub­lic­ity and im­prove the qual­ity of teach­ing in English to bet­ter se­lect and at­tract high-qual­ity in­ter­na­tional stu­dents. In­set: Ts­inghua Univer­sity’s cam­pus.

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