Thousands of mature-aged students from Harbin and an unknown number of university lecturers have been implicated in an exam fraud scheme that guaranteed a 'smooth passage' into a Jilin university degree programme. About 7,000 exam candidates from Harbin paid 200 yuan to a university-affiliated company to sit the test in Jilin and receive answers on their phones via text messages during the national exam, the Life Daily newspaper reported. The exam is part of a tertiary education system introduced in the 1950s to give people with work experience and a high school diploma the chance to acquire a university degree. The degrees are easier to acquire than traditional university qualifications and not as highly regarded, but they are recognised throughout the country by government departments, making them popular options for public servants seeking promotion. National regulations ban mobile phones from exam rooms, but during the two days of written tests last weekend, applicants who had signed up for the service received text-message answers to the exam questions that had been prepared by university lecturers, the newspaper reported. 'Fortunately I'm in Jilin where I can get the service and supervision is loose. Otherwise I would fail for sure,' the newspaper, based in Heilongjiang , quoted one participant as saying. About 5,000 of the 7,000 Harbin applicants who received the service applied to study at the Jilin University. The Life Daily quoted another source as saying people who persuaded others to apply for a place at the university received 500-1,000 yuan in commission. 'The annual tuition fees are 7,000 yuan. It's a good business,' the source said. The Jilin Education Department told the South China Morning Post it had not been informed of the fraud. Jilin police said yesterday all 14 staff at the company behind the fraud had been detained. Similar cases were uncovered over the weekend in Beijing, where more than 300 people received SMS answers in the exam room after paying over 4,500 yuan each for a three-month university preparatory course, the Beijing News reported. A Capital Normal University teacher admitted to the Beijing News that the aim of the service was to attract more students next year.