Colleges will no longer be allowed to expel married students who legally have babies during their school years, with the introduction of new regulations in several provinces and municipalities.
On Thursday, Shanghai introduced a regulation aimed at providing better family-planning services for married students.
"Married students will be given free advice on reproduction, sexual health and contraception; schools will cover part of the cost of antenatal and childbirth care in accordance with relevant school rules; and married female students will be entitled to maternity leave," the regulation said.
Several other provinces and regions, including Yunnan, Jiangsu and Xinjiang, have introduced similar rules.
In the past, students were regularly expelled for getting pregnant.
The change in attitude follows the launch of a State regulation earlier in the year to safeguard the rights of adult students to have children.
The National Population and Family Planning Commission, Ministry of Health and Ministry of Public Security jointly launched the regulation ordering schools to set up a registration system to record their students' marital status and provide free family-planning services for married students.
The ruling also banned colleges from expelling married students for having children.
Sun Xiaobing, director of the law office of the Ministry of Education, said: "This is a manifestation of social progress, as getting married and having children is a fundamental right of every citizen, including college students. However, it does not mean that we are in favor of college students having children when they are still at school."
The new rules will create some administrative problems for schools, but in the long run, these can be resolved, as the country is trying to complete its social and public management systems, Sun said.
Students have welcomed the new ruling and dismissed concerns it will lead to more of them having children.
Wang Jingwen, a student at Tsinghua University, said: "Students are under great pressure to study hard so they can find a job.
"Having a baby will hold up their studies and could damage their future."
Most students rely on parental support while they are studying, so I doubt many of them will want to rush into getting married and having children," Wang said.
(China Daily November 4, 2007)