The University of Sydney in Australia has begun using scores from China's national college entrance exam during admissions in a bid to attract more Chinese students.
Under the new admissions policy, Chinese students who have sat China's national entrance exam, also known as gaokao, can go straight into academic programs at the Australia's leading university, without having to enter preparatory programs.
Before that, candidates for admission into the University of Sydney had to provide their International English Language Testing System (IELTS) scores and academic records showing eight to 12 months of preparatory coursework at a local college.
"The new policy relieves some of the burden on Chinese families because it saves tuition fees and living expenses for students, of course, as well as one year of time," said Emily Du, who was once an agent for overseas education in Beijing.
She said the average cost of studying and living in Australia is about 200,000 yuan ($31,800) per year.
Compared with the admission cut-offs set by Chinese universities, the entry score set by the University of Sydney is very low, according to the guide to academic entry requirements for Chinese students applying to undergraduate programs at the university in 2012.
The entry score is listed by China's municipality or province. In Shanghai, for instance, students with a minimum gaokao score of 468 can apply for the university, which is more than 100 points less than the score needed to enter China's top universities, such as Peking University or Tsinghua University.
This is good news for high school students who want to study in Australia.
"In the past, students who wanted to receive undergraduate education overseas had to give up gaokao, which was not accepted by overseas universities," said a woman surnamed Lu from Tianjin, whose son is studying for a master's degree in Australia.
"The new policy gives students more choices," she said.
According to the University of Sydney, courses with additional entry criteria must have these satisfied in addition to the gaokao score listed.
International students should also have a minimum entry score of 6.5 on the IELTS test to enter the university.
Some people said the change in admissions policy was just a way for overseas universities to compete for Chinese students and make a profit.
"Though the university lowered its admission requirements, finishing the whole course of study at the university is not that easy. Chinese students may fail to keep up with their studies if they are not good enough students," said Yang Ming, 28, who graduated from the University of Sydney in 2006.