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Tsinghua lightens international admissions

One of China’s top-ranked institutions, Tsinghua University, has lightened its admission requirements for international students. However, the university has faced criticism over the stringent entrance requirements that remain for domestic students.

Students with an HSK level 4 will be able to apply to the university as long as they can reach HSK level 5 after the first year of study. Photo: flickr/tom6740.

International student applicants will have to prove an HSK [Chinese language test] level 5

The prestigious university in Beijing has outlined new admission criteria for international students, which includes the abolishment of an entrance exam score.

Under the new requirements for the upcoming 2017 intake, international student applicants will have to prove an HSK [Chinese language test] level 5, along with supporting academic documents, and take part in an interview.

Students with an HSK level 4, however, will still be able to apply to the university as long as they can reach HSK level 5 after the first year of study.

“Studying hard for 10 years is still not as good as [the] sentence – ‘I am a foreigner”

In addition, if the applicant’s mother tongue is Chinese, the applicants may not need to prove an HSK score, subject to approval by Tsinghua University.

However, the announcement of this new policy has provoked a backlash among many Chinese students, who argue that the two-tiered admissions process is unfair to domestic students.

Despite the abolishment of an entrance exam for international students to Tsinghua, domestic students are still required to take the competitive gaokao exam in order to gain admission to university, which can take years of preparation.

“Seriously, someone who has been studying hard for 10 years still can’t get in to main universities as easily as someone who just has a foreign nationality?” charged one Weibo user.

And another said: “Studying hard for 10 years is still not as good as [the] sentence – ‘I am a foreigner’.”

Critics of the new requirements also contend that scoring highly on the HSK is easier for foreign students than it is for Chinese students to score highly on comparative English language exams like the IELTS or TOEFL tests.

“They can get in to our university easily with HSK level 5, while there are plenty Chinese with good English, but they can’t get in overseas universities easily,” expressed another Weibo user.

There are also concerns that the move could compel Chinese families to move abroad, and apply to Tsinghua from overseas, in order to dodge the rigorous domestic student requirements.

The university has stayed by its decision despite some disagreement. Speaking to Chinese media, a university official said: “In recent years, increasing numbers of international students want to study at Tsinghua. With the new policy, we have actually expanded the scope of applications, thus making the process more competitive than before.”

The changes will align the university’s admission process with other institutions around the world, it hopes, as many universities don’t require an entrance exam for foreign students.

International students make up around 6% of Tsinghua University’s 31,000-strong student body.

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