Most Chinese postgraduate students will be forced to pay their own tuition fees at Beijing's top universities from next year.
The Ministry of Education will cancel government-funded postgraduate programs at all 36 universities affiliated to the ministries in the capital.
It said the move is designed to enhance the quality of postgraduate education and encourage competition among students.
The ministry said it had trialed canceled tuition fees since 2006, and that it would now be expanded to include all universities supported by the central government across the country.
Students with an excellent academic record can receive scholarships that will cover tuition fees and also some research, the ministry said in a circular published on its website.
Some graduate students at universities funded by the Beijing municipal government such as Beijing University of Technology can continue to enjoy free tuition policy for the time being.
Students have been exempt from tuition fees since 1978, when China resumed college education after the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).
In 1994, the policy was abolished for undergraduates as part of the market-oriented reform of the higher education system.
However, the policy remained for postgraduate students because it was believed they are talented and deserved the support of the government.
Students studying masters programs usually get a regular allowance of about 300 yuan ($45) from the government.
In 2007, Peking University was among a number of Beijing universities to abolish government-funded places for all students, and introduce selective government-funded scholarships.
Other universities followed, including Beihang University, Beijing Jiaotong University (BJTU) and North China Electric Power University.
Wang Yushen, a graduate student at the China Foreign Affairs University, said he would go to university regardless of whether or not the government was funding his place.
"With or without government subsidies, I will still go for the exam. We have been used to the scholarship system for many years," he said.
Ji Chen, 23, a first year postgraduate student at Peking University, said she was a beneficiary of the scholarship system.
She gets annual 18,000 yuan ($2,639) scholarship, and after deducting 12,000 yuan in tuition, she receives 6,000 yuan as an allowance.
Xiao Yan, a teacher of admission department with the graduate school of BJTU, told METRO there are approximately 80 percent of postgraduate students in BJTU receiving scholarships. Even the lowest level can cover tuition. By Wang Wei (China Daily) Updated: 2009-09-30 10:04