context: College admission in China takes place exclusively through gaokao and is managed by educational examination authorities. HEIs select students by setting gaokao cutoff scores with no access to student profiles. Since 2003, MoE has granted a few pilot HEIs the autonomy to independently recruit students, allowing students with special talents to enter high-ranking schools with relatively lower gaokao scores. The program aims to reduce gaokao competitiveness, promote interest-driven liberal arts education and help HEIs select students that fit well with their programs. In practice, independent admission programs have led to corruption and reduced gaokao credibility and the overall quality of students recruited.

Ministry of Education (MoE) issued ‘Notice on improving higher education institutes (HEI) independent admission programs (2019 cycle)’, specifying

  • admission policy
    • eligibility
      • comprehensive evaluation of academic skills and innovation capacity rather than sorting by publications, patent filings and competition awards
      • must be approved by MoE
    • admission criteria
      • stricter than previous years
    • program size
      • smaller than previous years
    • available majors of study
      • preferably basic science and programs the HEI is strong in
  • admission procedures
    • qualification review
    • examination
      • special skills testing must be transparent and fair
      • must include general skills tests, such as ethics, morality, aesthetics and health condition
    • interview
      • blind interview and random selection of interviewers and interviewees
      • must be recorded using camera
      • must include session to test applicants’ sports performance
    • public consultation
      • minimum of ten days
    • post-enrollment review
  • enforcement and supervision
    • division of responsibility
    • penalising measures

The 10-point policy takes things one step further than MoE’s 5-action document to restrict independent admission program issued April 2017, says Jiang Dianjun 姜殿军 SquareStategics Research Institutes. Jiang predicts

  • lowest gaokao acceptance score will be much higher than previous year, with fewer students eligible for preferential policy
  • students who fail additional post-enrollment performance review will be expelled
  • performance in academic competitions will be prioritised less and preparation sessions offered by after-school tutoring institutes will be discouraged
  • MoE will introduce third-party evaluation centres to certificate academic competitions
  • independent admission programs will be gradually merged into gaokao 2.0 scheme