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Women in China Face Rising University Entry Barriers


According to an New York Times article, on 31 August 2012, three female university students in Beijing shaved their heads in order to protest against gender discrimination that made it harder for female students to enter universities. Some of their male peers also shaved their heads to join their cause. In fact, four female students in Guangzhou, a coastal city in southern China, did the same thing the day before.

Earlier that month, the Ministry of Education announced that women must score much higher than men in their college entrance exams in order to get into the same universities. Although this unspoken rule had been in practice for years in China, it was the first time that the gap between male and female admission scores became so huge that it aroused public demonstration. The University of International Relations had the biggest gap between male and female admission scores – 91 points in total (the full score was 772 this year). Such gender difference was particularly large at police or military-affiliated universities as well as language institutes.

According to reports from the Ministry of Education, women in China made up 43.8 percent of undergraduate students in 2004 and 49.6 percent in 2012. In master’s programs, women accounted for 44.1 percent of students in 2004 and 50.3 percent in 2010. However, only 35.4 percent of doctoral candidates in 2010 were women.

With the increasing number of women getting higher education, female university students began to outweighed male students in many areas, particularly in language studies. In July, the Shanghai International Studies University, known for its foreign language studies, began to admit men with lower scores than women in non-English majors including Arabic, Hebrew, Korean, Ukrainian and Russian. In some Arabic-speaking countries, people are more accustomed to do business with men instead of women, the university said, according to a report from People’s Daily Online.

The Ministry of Education claimed that the practices were in the “national interest”.