"China’s version of the Ivy League found itself splattered in mud this week, as top schools Peking University and Tsinghua University accused each other of turning to unsavory recruiting strategies.
The schools are among China’s best, guaranteed to attract the students who score highest on the gaokao, the country’s national college entrance exam. So it was jarring to see the two unleash a public series of mutual recriminations: on social media, an account affiliated with Peking University’s recruiting team in southwestern Sichuan province suggested that Tsinghua’s recruiters in the same region had offered students money as an incentive to enroll in Tsinghua, among other accusations.
In turn, Tsinghua’s Sichuan recruiter struck back, also on social media, saying that Peking University was the one guilty of such behavior. The back-and-forth earned both universities a chiding from China’s education ministry, which on Weibo urged “relevant universities” to respect an orderly enrollment process and refrain from dangling promises, such as large scholarships offers, to “maliciously carry off students.”
Competition for top-scoring students—and assiduous courting of the same—is nothing new among universities in China. But a visible airing of dirty laundry is more unusual, says Percy Jiang, counselor at the local Beijing National Day School.
Peking University and Tsinghua University did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Universities in China have felt increasing pressure to hold onto the best students, Mr. Jiang notes, as fewer students take the gaokao and more of China’s best students choose to study overseas. This year, 9.4 million students sat the test, down from 10.5 million in 2008.