Why Are China's Universities Losing Their Star Students?

Time magazine explains that the traditional annual battle between Peking and Tsinghua Universities for China’s best high school graduates is being disrupted by increasing competition from other colleges abroad.

Big-name foreign universities are complicating the two-way rivalry — a trend that has both China’s education experts and the general public worrying about the competitiveness of higher education in China. While 9.3 million Chinese students took the college-entrance exam in 2011, close to 1 million high school graduates did not, and among them, some 200,000 chose to go to foreign universities instead. Today over 100,000 Chinese high school graduates attend college in the U.S. each fall, and this year at least 17 of the top 100 mainland students chose to go to the University of Hong Kong.

The exodus of the country’s brightest high school students has renewed discussions in the media about the ongoing problem of higher-education reform. And so far — in the absence of any clear evidence that reform is actually happening — public opinion of China’s universities has become more and more skeptical, if not downright negative.

Chinese students’ growing appetite for study abroad was also covered in the third part of an NPR series, featured on CDT, on China’s scientific development:

This year, the four students with the highest marks in Beijing’s high school graduation exam, or gaokao, all chose to study in Hong Kong, where the system is more open, sparking much soul-searching about China’s educational system ….

“I am sure that I will study abroad, but I will come back to build my country,” 16-year-old wannabe rocket scientist Katherine Lee says with conviction. “China is still developing. The most thing we need is science and scientists, so we must come back. It’s my duty and my will.”

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