With the college entrance examination still a month away, some universities have already begun to fight for the best high school graduates by offering generous scholarships.
One third-level university has offered grants of 320,000 yuan to attract elite students and many second- and third-tier universities have also boosted their scholarships in reaction to a sharp decline in the number of high school students applying for university places.
The number of university applicants in Beijing dropped from 100,000 last year to 80,000.
Qiao Pan, Beijing Hospitality Institute's vice-director of admissions, said students who ace their tests in their home provinces and apply for a tourism management major at the institute will receive a 320,000-yuan scholarship.
Universities in China are divided into three levels based on the quality of education quality they provide. The best ones are called key universities, followed by second- and third-level universities.
Qiao added that if students' scores exceed the threshold for entry to key universities and they elect to attend Beijing Hospitality Institute instead, they will get a scholarship of 60,000 yuan.
In addition, students who score high enough in the test to attend a second-level university but who choose to attend the institute will receive a 20,000-yuan scholarship.
"The large scholarships are being put forward to attract more top students," Qiao said. "I admit the likelihood of us giving out a 320,000-yuan scholarship is slim, but I am confident some students who pass the threshold for key and second-level universities will apply to our institute."
Other universities have also announced scholarship policies aimed at attracting the most outstanding students.
For the first time, Capital University of Economics and Business has established scholarships - ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 yuan - that will be awarded to the 10 fresh students with the best scores.
However, students and educators expressed doubt about whether large scholarships will catch big fish.
Jing Xinxuan, a 15-year-old graduating student with the Experimental High School Attached to Beijing Normal University, has filed an application with Tsinghua University and says she will not consider second- or third-tier universities, no matter how much money is on the table.
"I value the study environment and the quality of the teachers the most," she said. "I will be better off with experienced teachers and outstanding peers."
Ding Ningning, senior research fellow with the Development Research Center under the State Council, told METRO he agreed that the key to attracting students was in the quality of education on offer and not short-term financial incentives.
(China Daily 05/06/2010 page27)