The Chinese higher education system has been rocked this week by accusations of underhand tactics employed by universities to recruit students. Peking University and Tsinghua University have been at the centre of attention as their methods used in student recruitment have come under scrutiny.
Commonly known for their fierce rivalry over top students, the two universities broke out in a war of words on their Weibo accounts, accusing one another of employing dirty tactics in their recruiting strategies, notably in the Sichuan Province. Peking’s recruitment team reportedly suggested the Tsunghua’s recruiters were offering students monetary incentives in order to entice them to enrol. This resulted in a reply from Tsinghua’s Sichuan recruitment team turning the accusation back on Peking, saying that it was they who were guilty of these behaviours.
The very public spat eventually resulted in the offending messages being removed by each university respectively, however by this point the damage was done as the website ifeng published screenshots of the exchange which proceeded to garner thousands of blistering comments, shares and negative media attention.
Whilst there have long been questions over the competition for top students and the transparency of the recruitment and enrolment processes employed by Chinese universities, the public nature of defamatory accusations between rivalling institutions has been less common.
Universities in China are increasingly feeling the pressure to compete for top students, not just amongst each other but also with the rest of the world. The number of students sitting the national college entrance test in China, gaokao, has decreased by over a million since 2008 as more students each year choose to study overseas, lured by the opportunities and prestige of many leading universities outside of China.
China’s Education Minister issued a statement following the furore, urging universities to abide by orderly enrolment processes and to refrain from offering questionable incentives. Whilst dragging the name of the Chinese higher education system through the mud, the clash has at least highlighted the need for a clean-up of the country’s enrolment system, especially if Chinese universities want to continue to attract top students and to stand a chance in competing with other institutions on an international level.
Image via Shutterstock