BEIJING - Seven prestigious universities in China announced Sunday that they would begin using the same independent exam - besides the national one - to test students hoping to gain entrance to them in 2011.
The seven are Peking University, Beihang University (Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics), Beijing Normal University, Nankai University, Fudan University, Xiamen University and Hong Kong University.
Students who want to gain entrance to any of the seven universities will only have to sit one independent exam, according to the joint announcement.
"This will help lighten the students' load, otherwise they must take several exams for different universities," said the announcement.
Passing the exam could result in more than one interview chance, giving the students more opportunities to choose their favorite universities.
China's college entrance exam system is undergoing reform as universities aim to select students based on independent criteria rather than just using the results of the national exam.
In 2003, Peking University and another 21 universities were allowed to pilot the reform by using their own criteria to independently select five percent of their students.
Now nearly 80 universities across the country have the right to select talented students based on their own exams.
Education experts regard universities selecting students according to independent examinations as conducive to better understanding where the students' talents lie.
Although this may be the case, it has also created problems as students may sit many different exams as they often apply for a number of universities.
To relieve students from such pressures, the national education outline (2010-2020) released in July this year encourages high-level universities to group together to use the same exams.
"It is an inevitable trend for universities' independent enrollment to be united," Xiong Bingqi, deputy director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, a Beijing-based private non-profit organization on educational policy research.
The first alliance, which commenced earlier this year, was between Tsinghua University, University of Science and Technology of China, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Xi'an Jiaotong University and Nanjing University, in this year's independent enrollment examination.
This alliance will be enlarged in the next year's university entrance exam with the participation of another two universities, Renmin University of China and Zhejiang University.
The two alliances, respectively represented by Tsinghua and Peking universities, matched each other in education quality, according to sources with the admission office of Peking University.
Meng Qian, director of the admission official at Tsinghua University, welcomed the establishment of the new alliance, hoping that the two alliances would increase exchanges.
He said the two alliances would not worry about student resources. "To promote this kind of reform of China's enrollment system is more important than to compete for students with higher grades," he noted.
Both alliances opposed aggressive competition, saying that competition should be based on fully respecting students' interests and willingness, not on luring students by offering scholarships worth more.
Nowadays more and more excellent high-school students in China are inclined to choose overseas colleges and universities.
"Chinese universities should not compete with each other but rather compete with foreign world-class universities in student enrollment," said sources at the Peking University.