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Thinking tours

By Liu Zhihua and Xu Lin (China Daily)

09:22, September 03, 2012

Campus visits have become an in thing in the last few years. Liu Zhihua and Xu Lin find out their unique selling proposition and the downside of these tours.

It is Li Suqun's turn, at last. After waiting in the sweltering heat for half an hour, she reaches the gate of Tsinghua University, to visit the top-ranking campus. Behind her, the waiting line stretches more than 50 meters.

Li, from Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, is on a five-day package tour to Beijing with her husband and son.

The trip includes a free and easy day, and the family chose to visit Tsinghua University and Peking University, just like the rest of the 100 people in her group.

"Reading about them (the universities) in the books is not enough," Li says. "We want our son to have a feel of the prestigious universities himself."

For many Chinese, famous universities across China are not only top seats of learning but also veritable tourist destinations.

Many visitors bring their children not only to admire the sceneries of the campuses. They hope such visits, which present awe-inspiring achievements of the universities and give a sense of the conducive learning environment, will inspire their kids to strive for a place in such ivory towers.

Others visit these institutes of higher learning to realize their unfulfilled dream - they failed to secure a place in the universities, so the least they could do now is to take a walk in the college grounds.

Most of these old and prestigious universities are rich with artworks, memorials and museums, and are in themselves architectural showcases with historical value.

But there are downsides to being a tourist attraction. High tourist traffic also means more litter, thefts and vandalism. Visitors also encroach on the daily lives of students when they throng the canteens and classrooms.

"The tourists are noisy, and some throw trash everywhere. I cannot bear seeing them taking photos everywhere on campus," says Jiang Yuan from the School of Communication and Journalism, Xiamen University, which is a hot tourist spot in the coastal city of Xiamen in Fujian province.

"Once, when we were self-studying in a classroom, a couple asked us to leave so that they could take wedding photos. It's very annoying," says Sun Jiameng from the university.

Wuhan University in Hubei province attracts more than 1 million tourists every year because of its well-known cherry blossoms, as well as its academic achievements and magnificent architecture of the 1930s.

From mid- to late March every year, the season when its 1,000 cherry trees bloom, droves of tourists flood the campus, despite having to pay a 10-yuan ($6.36) entrance fee.

During peak season, the campus receives some 200,000 a day, resulting in traffic chaos, according to the university's official website.

"College campuses should be open to the public, but the amount of visitors should be limited to an appropriate level," says Jiang Yuan, from Xiamen University.

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