By Ann M. Koenig, AACRAO International Education Services
The Chinese annual national graduate school entrance examination held January 4-5, 2014, was marked by lower turnout and the discovery of a cheating operation in China’s northern Heilongjiang province. A total of 1.72 million applicants took the examination, about 40,000 fewer than last year. In Beijing, where 250,000 sat the 2014 entrance examination, the numbers were down 7.85% compared to 2013.
The drop follows a five-year trend of increasing numbers. According to a report in China Daily, some higher education administrators speculated that this year’s lower numbers may be the result of a policy change that takes effect this year. Under the new policy, students who score well on the examination receive government scholarships, and those who do not receive a scholarship must pay tuition. Under the previous policy students under 40 years of age paid no tuition. It also appears that this year’s examination was more difficult than past examinations.
Examination security remains a challenge. While the China Daily report describes increased security measures taken at one testing site in Beijing, University World News reports on a cheating operation at the MBA center at Harbin University of Science and Technology. According to a report by CCTV, the official Chinese broadcaster, the MBA center advertised a high pass rate in the examination, with a guarantee of passing results for a fee equivalent to about $6,600. The examination takers were then supplied with wireless earpieces for use on examination day, and trained by the center on the use of the devices during the examination. It is reported that to date, of 223 candidates caught cheating, 123 have been found to be using the devices, and about 90 sets of electronic devices have been confiscated. To date nine suspects have been charged with stealing state secrets. The status of examination material has been upgraded from “secret” to “top secret” in recent years in an attempt to fight examination fraud.
As a result of the investigation, recruitment for the 2015 MBA program at Harbin University of Science and Technology has been suspended, and the MBA center’s license to offer the national graduate entrance examination has also been suspended for a year.