context: Beijing’s widening efforts to seize tighter and deeper control of education are well-documented. Less visible until recently have been local attempts to regulate colleges and universities—applicants in particular. The result of what some surely see as heavy-handed attempts to manage students in Chongqing is not so much controversy in recent days as confusion.

Chongqing Educational Examination Institute website released a statement 9 November 2018 in the early morning about the recently announced regulations for university enrolment contained in ‘Notice on Ideological and Political Moral Assessment’. The statement was in response to reports in official and authoritative media outlets that political standards would play a role in the registration and scoring of the annual gaokao—or college entrance national examination.

The statement noted that it was ‘unspecific and inaccurate’ to characterise the Notice as a ‘political examination’, and that this interpretation was caused by an irregular release of information to reporters’ telephone enquiries and the lack of strict oversight on the part of the staff’s unit. The statement contained an apology for the public’s misunderstanding and noted that for 2019, there was no change in the content and methods of the current ’Ideological and Political Moral Assessment’ for applicants to Chongqing’s colleges and universities.