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Tsinghua’s lenient admissions requirements for foreigners spark public outcry

By Kou Jie (People's Daily Online)    14:11, February 17, 2017

China’s Tsinghua University has been bombarded with criticism after it released a new set of admissions requirements for foreign applicants, which critics have deemed “discriminatory against Chinese nationals.”

According to the university’s 2017 requirements for international bachelor's degree applicants, foreign applicants must hold a high school diploma and pass the Level 5 HSK Chinese proficiency test with a score of at least 60 out of 100. All other entrance examinations are waived for foreign students.

The requirements have sparked controversy, with many denouncing the “preferential policy,” arguing that such requirements will dampen Chinese students' enthusiasm and lead to educational injustice.

“As one of China’s most prestigious universities, Tsinghua’s admissions requirements for international students are too lenient compared to those for their Chinese counterparts. At most respected universities in the U.K., there are specified enrollment standards for Chinese students requiring high GPAs and strong English skills,” an expert from a Beijing-based study abroad agency told People’s Daily Online.

The expert also believes that Tsinghua’s Chinese proficiency requirement is too low compared to requirements for TOEFL or IELTS scores from Chinese applicants abroad, as foreigners can pass the Level 5 HSK exam by knowing only 2,500 Chinese words.

Other critics believe that the new requirements may worsen China's educational injustices. Many Chinese parents already give birth to their children abroad so that their offspring can obtain foreign passports. If those foreign passport-holders then seek to receive an education in China, they have much easier access to prestigious schools and education resources than their Chinese peers.

It makes sense that Tsinghua is seeking to recruit more international students, as a certain proportion of foreign students is a crucial criterion for all internationally-recognized universities. Currently, foreigners only account for 5.8 percent of Tsinghua students, which is lower than the 20 percent figure at universities such as Oxford and Harvard, Xiong Bingqi, vice president of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, told Thepaper.cn.

Though it is necessary to enroll more foreign students, Xiong pointed out that this should be done by improving the quality of education at Chinese universities, rather than by lowering admissions requirements.

Tsinghua University could not be reached for a comment as of press time. In an announcement published on Tsinghua’s official website, Liu Zhen, director of Tsinghua’s international admissions office, said the new requirements are not intended to lower standards for foreign applicants, but to evaluate applicants in more multi-dimensional way.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Kou Jie, Bianji)

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