“In the last few years, some students, either one or both of whose parents are Chinese citizens, were born with foreign nationality, received basic education in China, and then applied for admission into the higher education system as an international student,” noted the Ministry of Education in a statement.
“If you apply to enter college as an international student you must have held a valid foreign passport”
It explained that from 2021, “if you apply to enter college as an international student you must have held a valid foreign passport or nationality certificate for more than four years”, in addition to meeting other registration requirements.
Students are also required to “have records of actual residence in a foreign country for more than two years, within the last four years”.
Actual residence for nine months in a year will be calculated as one year subject to entry and exit signatures, the MoE statement added.
Getting into a top university in China for local students can be difficult, with millions of students competing in the gaokao exams for a few thousand places.
The region of the country in which they sit the exam can also have a large impact on their chances of success.
There is a widespread view in China that it is easier to get into university as an international student than a local one, a source of controversy that continues to stoke anger against both the MoE and international students themselves.
In addition to lower entry requirements, better accommodation and scholarship opportunities are major points of contention.
On Chinese social media, the new regulations were roundly welcomed, although some institutions – such as Tsinghua Univerisity – have already had their own regulations similar to those issued by the MoE for a number of years.
The Chinese government does not publish statistics on where international students previously lived prior to the commencement of their studies, or whether they are studying English or Chinese-taught courses.
Some 492,000 student visas were issued in China in 2018.