Not matter how high up the corporate ladder, company chairmen and CEOs alike will have to pass national entrance exams if they want to enrol in a domestic Executive Master of Business Administration programme, according to the Ministry of Education. Places in EMBA programmes used to be sought after by businessmen, senior government officials and others keen to cultivate prosperous social networks. The new rule may deal a blow to programmes at less competitive institutions, where enrolments have declined sharply in recent years amid the government’s anti-graft and austerity campaign. But the ministry said the new policy, to apply to next year’s intake, could also help raise the overall quality of these programmes on the mainland. Shanghai-based online news outlet ThePaper.cn reported yesterday that under the new rules, institutions across the country will not be able enrol students on their own after December 1. According to a notice on the official website of the China National MBA Education Supervisory Committee, from 2017, a nationwide entrance exam will be the only way for people to apply for an EMBA course. The ministry did not detail the subjects to be covered in the new exam but likely areas included language, maths, and logic, the report said. The new plan has been described by industry insiders as the biggest clean-up of EMBA programmes. The courses have been described as rich men’s clubs and some institutions offering them have been criticised for alleged corrupt practices and lack of set recruitment standards. Senior officials told to quit EMBAs as part of President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption drive The report quoted representatives from Tsinghua and Fudan universities as saying the institutions had been informed of the plans but not officially notified. In 2002, the State Council gave 32 institutions approval to offer EMBA programmes. Most now enrol students based on their own written exams and interviews. The ministry had said applicants had to be senior executives at large corporations with a university degree. They also had have at least eight years of work experience and four years of management experience. The report said various institutions did not abide by the rule and more often used their own criteria to accept students. Some applicants reportedly paid to get the qualification. The ministry last month banned 42 schools from offering EMBAs. EMBA institutions have also become a symbol of status and a platform for business executives, government officials and even athletes and celebrities to expand their connections. The new rule seeks to crackdown on the practice stating that students who do not meet attendance requirements will not be able to graduate. Tuition fees vary across different institutions from as high as 800,000 yuan (HK$960,000) in well-known institutions to about 100,000 yuan in less popular institutions in west China.