A former Chinese university officer has admitted to accepting millions of dollars in bribes from students seeking admission in his institution.
According to prosecutors, Cai Rongsheng, the former head of the admissions office at Renmin University in Beijing, admitted taking $3.6 million in bribes from 44 prospective students between 2005 and 2013.
No verdict has been announced in the case of Mr. Cai, who was first arrested in late 2013 while trying to escape to Canada with a fake passport, reports The New York Times.
Also implicated in the case was Ji Baocheng, the former president of Renmin University during Mr. Cai's tenure. His Communist Party membership was suspended for two years in July, according to China Daily, a state-run newspaper. It was reported that Mr. Ji was suspected of "improper behavior relating to university enrollment" after Mr. Cai was arrested.
The trial is part of Beijing's crackdown on corruption in higher education and a broader campaign to fight graft in all public sectors. However, many of the cases that have surfaced so far have involved misuse of public funds rather than bribery.
In November, eight officials, which included two top officials, from the Communication University of China were punished for violating the school's austerity code. They were charged with driving luxury cars and holding banquets with university funds, which sent the university's finances into chaos. It was found that the officials at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications made false expense reports.
As reported by Xinhua last month, 32 people working in higher education were singled out for investigation by the ruling Communist Party's anti-graft agency. Yuan Guirren, China's outspoken education minister, was cited by The Beijing News as saying that corruption would not be tolerated in the education system. Guiren lambasted the use of Western textbooks in China's classrooms.
David Moser has been teaching in Beijing universities for two decades and is the academic director of a Chinese-language program at Capital Normal University. He believes some changes to the admission system may also have opened the way for corruption.
Until recently, a student's score on the gaokao – the college admissions test administered to millions each summer – was the only criterion for admission. This procedure, however, led to producing students that lacked diversity and rewarded rote learning over creativity and talent, Mr. Moser told The New York Times in a telephone interview.
Although new policies allowed some universities to consider other factors such as musical ability, athletic prowess or skills at foreign languages in selecting students, letting admissions officers use their own judgment provided them with influence they could barter, Mr. Moser said.
He concluded by saying:
"The attempt was a good one, which was to try to get a different variety of students that maybe deserved to be in the college environment who didn't excel at passing tests."
"Instead of doing what they hoped it would, which is to attract a broader and varied group of students, it actually just opened up another little arena for corruption."