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Asia Minute: Swimming for University Degrees

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

This week is spring break at the University of Hawai‘i, and many students are taking advantage by spending some time at the beach. But university students elsewhere may spend some time at the beach studying—because at some schools a swimming test is still required for graduation. And that list now includes a leading university in China. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


Tsinghua University is one of the most prestigious educational institutions in Beijing, and in all of China for that matter.  Alumni include President Xi Jinping and former president HuJintao.

But neither of them had to deal with a requirement that new students will have to master starting this fall: swimming.

This week, the Beijing Daily reported that all incoming students will now have to pass a swimming test in order to graduate.

University officials say this is not a new rule—it’s the return of an old one which was part of university requirements in the early part of the 20th century.

It was dropped in part because of a lack of swimming pools in Beijing—which is about a hundred miles inland from China’s coast.

Many U.S. universities used to have swimming tests—and a few still do...largely in the northeast for some reason.

A degree from certain Chinese colleges already requires some degree of swimming proficiency.

That’s the case at two well-known schools: Xiamen University and Peking University.

There’s been a mixed reaction on social media to the swimming requirement at Tsinghua .

Some question the relevancy of the water test—while others point out that students only need to cover 50 meters—a little more than 50 yards.


Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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