China Ends Independent Admissions Program for Colleges

Yuan Ye:

China’s decades-old independent admissions program allowing top universities to cherry-pick talents from high schools is coming to an end.

In a notice published Tuesday, China’s Ministry of Education announced that the Independent Freshman Admission Program (IFAP) — an alternative to the country’s test-centric college admission program instituted in 2003 to recruit students who may have underperformed on the rigorous exams — will be replaced by a new pilot plan that vows to address enrollment inequality with a centralized recruitment scheme.

Under the new plan, 85% of applicants’ eligibility will be based on their college entrance exam — or gaokao — scores, restricting schools from making independent decisions based on their own criteria, according to the notice. A number of universities had already lowered their preferential admissions quotas last year.

Currently, 36 elite schools have been picked for the pilot program, with the application process starting in April. However, certain students with outstanding performance in related fields — as yet unnamed — could be exempt from the strict standards, according to the notice.

The new enrollment process will be more equal and transparent than IFAP, said Wu Xiaogang, a sociologist at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The system has been dogged by controversies over enrollment corruption and fraud, as well as accusations of favoringstudents from privileged families.