Asia Pacific Education Review

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 63–78 | Cite as

The effectiveness and efficiency of China’s special admission policies: the case of X University

  • Sunny Xinchun Niu
  • Guofang Wan


The Chinese government has implemented a series of special admission policies in recent years to increase access to elite universities for disadvantaged students from rural areas and less developed inland regions. Using administrative data of 1996–2015 freshman cohorts and survey data of a 2014 freshman cohort at X University in the eastern China, we empirically assess the effectiveness, and the dual concerns of equity and efficiency of these policies. Findings show that these policies have effectively changed the geographic composition of enrollees at X University toward higher proportions of students from the central and western regions and lower share of the local students. While students from the western region underperformed academically, urban students in this region caught up quickly. Low family SES and weak academic preparation largely explained why rural students from the western region underperformed. Importantly, compared with the local students who scored lower in college entrance exam—the proxy for likely displaced students because of the policies, the likely admission policy beneficiaries performed about equally well. These results indicate that the current practice of Chinese special admission policies has effectively promoted equal access to Chinese elite universities with a limited loss in efficiency.


College performance Disadvantaged students Special admission policies 



This research was supported by a China Ministry of Education Humanity and Social Science Research Planning Project Grant (#16YJA880029). We are grateful to Grace Zheng and Amani Grow for their instructive feedbacks and editorial supports.


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Copyright information

© Education Research Institute, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  2. 2.University of West FloridaPensacolaUSA

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