Shanghai rolls out 'controversial' policy to attract graduates from top two Chinese universities

Tsinghua University Photo: IC

Shanghai announced on Friday that it will grant fast-track Shanghai household registration authorization to graduates from Peking University and Tsinghua University if they choose to work in the city, in a move to welcome talents from around the nation.

Under the pilot program, those with bachelor's degrees from the top two universities in China who have been offered jobs in Shanghai will be granted preferential treatment in their applications for Shanghai household registration permits, or hukou, which afford holders a full range of benefits including pensions, healthcare and child education stipends as well as auto and apartment purchase quotas.

First-tier cities like Beijing and Shanghai are traditional talent hubs in China. However, due to their high living costs and soaring property prices, a growing number of college students have expressed their willingness to settle and work in first-tier cities, including Tianjin, Wuhan, Changsha and Chengdu, after they rolled out various incentives to attract college graduates.

The Tianjin government in May lowered its household registration threshold to attract more skilled workers to the city. Its household registration system now accepts applications from bachelor's and master's degree holders up to the age of 40 and 45, respectively, while doctorate degree holders of any age can register directly.

Chengdu is offering college graduates hukou even before they get jobs. The graduates can get local hukou by simply submitting their graduation certificates.

The government in Changsha has also introduced a no-threshold residence permit policy targeting college graduates. Graduates who get hukou in Changsha also get subsidies for renting or buying houses in the city.

By contrast, with a population of nearly 25 million, Shanghai has been using a so-called points-based hukou system for non-local graduates since 2004, with preference given to those with higher degrees and grade-point averages, as well as graduates with specialized skills in technology and other areas.

Under the new policy, graduates from Peking and Tsinghua universities are exempt from the tedious points-generating process for hukou registrations, and only need to meet "basic requirements" if they are offered full-time jobs in Shanghai.

However, some students from the two colleges said the policy is still "not enough" to attract them to work in Shanghai.

"All my friends and potential business partners are in Beijing, and I have to make new friends if I go to Shanghai," said Xu Haozhe, a postgraduate student of Peking University's law school.

"In the IT sector, Beijing offers more opportunities and choices. But that does not mean Shanghai is losing its appeal. I saw my schoolmates talking on social media about hunting for jobs in the financial hub," said Huang Yunwen, a junior student majoring in computer science at Peking University.

The policy has also triggered heated discussion on Chinese social media.

Some netizens believed that giving preferences to graduates from Peking and Tsinghua universities in Shanghai household registration may create privileges for the special group, which undermines fairness in society.

"It is unfair and discriminatory. Degree is nothing but a piece of paper, which can't represent a student's capability. Graduates from other institutions of higher education such as Fudan University and Shanghai Jiaotong University can also be as excellent as those from Peking and Tsinghua universities," one Weibo user named Yiming said.

"The government has been making efforts to build an equal society. Unfortunately, the policy rolled out by Shanghai is going against that," another Weibo user named Jia Yu said.

Others defended Shanghai's new policy.

"It's reasonable. Foreign countries also have their special policies to attract high-end talents. Shanghai is just doing the right thing for its development," one Weibo user named Zhu Hui said.

"Graduates from Peking and Tsinghua universities are better compared to those from other universities in China. This is so-called 'elite school advantage'," another Weibo user named Emmy said.

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