Lin Li posted these "before" and "after" photos on her Renren (a similar site to Facebook) profile page. Her university later reposted them.

“Hey, girls, college won’t just make you smarter… it will also make you prettier, richer and even whiter!” Chinese Internet users have been saying, making fun of a university in Beijing that published "before" and "after" photos of one of its students.

In what appears to be a bid to attract prospective students, Tsinghua University reposted photos of a student taken before and after her university years on its Weibo (a site similar to Twitter) page.

In the “after” photos, the student is dressed more fashionably and seems to have lighter skin. After her years of study, her appearance fits more closely with the beauty ideals esteemed in modern Chinese society, with many believing that the perfect woman is “white (bai), rich (fu) and beautiful (mei)” or “baifumei.”

The university kicked off a social media trend, as other female students began posting "before" and "after" photos to show how their undergraduate years had changed them for the better. One even captioned her “after” photo: “A better me”.

While the university may merely be expressing pride in its blossoming students, some young women say that a university shouldn’t be adverstising the physical attributes of its student body in order to attract enrolment.

“It’s wrong for a university to publicize itself in this way”

Yaxue Wang is a student in Beijing.

Universities are about education, teaching and research. It’s wrong to for a university to publicize itself in this way. It isn’t serious enough... it gives the impression that female students put their best efforts into studying make-up instead of more intellectual subjects! This ad could easily be for a clinic specialising in cosmetic surgery.

“These photos are just for fun.”

But not all students are offended. One student who isn’t worried about the photos is Ocean Weng.

Tsinghua University is a reputed establishment… it doesn’t need to worry about whether students want to study there or not. The photos of “white, rich and beautiful” girls are just for fun. We don’t have to take them seriously.