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Freshmen university students take an exam in an open-air playground at a high school in Yichuan, Shaanxi province.

8,000 Chinese students were expelled from US universities last year, mostly for cheating and bad grades

Chinese students regularly rank among the best performing in the world, but that’s not always the case when they enroll in US schools. As many as 8,000 Chinese students in the US, were kicked out of their universities last year, according to the Pennsylvania-based education consultancy WholeRen. In 81% of 1,657 cases studied by WholeRen, the reason for expulsion was poor academic performance or cheating, according to a white paper released by the company.

“Chinese students used to be considered top-notch, but over the past five years their image has changed completely—wealthy kids who cheat,” Chen, chief development officer at WholeRen, told the Wall Street Journal. According to Chen, past generations of Chinese students were poorer and relied on their grades and scholarships to get into universities abroad, but now these students are often wealthy Chinese who weren’t able to get admitted to a good school at home.

This challenge to the stereotype of the “studious Chinese student” also calls into question the quality of education that Chinese students are used to at home. Critics say that China’s university drop-out rate is so low—just 3%, compared to 54% in the US or 32% in the United Kingdom—because professors rarely fail their students. (One theory is that the students, after years of enduring punishing hours of study and testing in order to get into university, are given a break.)

Plagiarism is also common and often goes unpunished. When administrators of China’s notorious college entrance exam, the gaokao, tried to crack down on cheating last year, hundreds of parents rioted, reportedly yelling, “We want fairness. There is no fairness if you do not let us cheat.” This week, 15 Chinese nationals were caught trying to scam standardized tests like the SAT and the GRE.