Controls over the enrolment of foreign students are to be relaxed to complement other reforms, the State Education Commission said yesterday. 'The commission has decided to allow the country's universities to independently enrol foreign students,' Wei Yu, vice-minister of the commission said. 'Foreigners interested in studying on the mainland can apply directly for registration at universities starting this year.' Registration of foreign students used to be centrally monitored and all applications had to go through the Government in an attempt to prevent infiltration by 'unpopular elements', which officials feared would 'pollute' mainland students. Ms Wei said universities would be given greater powers to decide admission requirements, curriculum and even campus management without government interference. The reforms would begin at several key universities on a trial basis and would gradually be extended to all universities, she said. As of late last year, there were about 40,000 foreigners studying in more than 330 universities on the mainland. Ms Wei said the increasing number of foreign students had made it impossible to centralise student management. She said streamlining the government structure would simplify controls and save resources. Under the new measures, universities in the pilot programme will no longer need to report admissions of foreign students to the commission. Foreign students would help speed up the introduction of advanced foreign technology on the mainland, Ms Wei said.