Poll: Chinese universities’ “unconventional courses” endorsed by over 62 percent of respondents

(People's Daily Online) 14:15, November 08, 2021

A recent survey revealed that about 81.1 percent of people have heard of “unconventional courses”, including those concerning romantic relationships, social interaction, and tabletop boardgames, among others, as offered by some Chinese universities, with 62.4 percent indicating a belief that such courses cater to the demands of youngsters.

A student climbs a tree at Northwest University in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province. (Xi'an Daily/Lei Weidong)

The nationwide survey, conducted by the Social Survey Center of the Beijing-based China Youth Daily in cooperation with questionnaire.com, polled 2,015 people and found that 81.1 percent of them had previously heard of such course offerings.

About 64.2 percent held the view that such courses combine both theory and practice, and are both educational and fun, while 62.4 percent believed that they are novel and interesting and able to meet the needs of young people. However, 18.2 percent said that they are not practical and will become "outdated very soon".

Nowadays, a growing number of Chinese universities have started to launch these kinds of unconventional courses in response to a rising demand among young people.

When asked about the benefits provided by the courses, 72.1 percent said that they can help to arouse students’ interest in fields other than their own majors; 58.8 percent held the view that they can increase students' knowledge base; and, 57.8 percent said that they can help students to balance their course structure between academic disciplines.

As for people’s expectations on the future development of the new course offerings, 71.1 percent believed that universities should devise more thorough teaching plans and set out goals when providing such courses, while 67.7 percent suggested that universities should not pursue the novel trend blindly.

Among the respondents, 29.8 percent lived in first-tier cities, 45.8 percent in second-tier cities, 18.1 percent in third- and fourth-tier cities, 4.5 percent in towns or counties, and 1.8 percent in rural areas.

Zhang Ye, an undergraduate student from a university in Beijing, was aware of some of the new courses now available, such as those on golfing, kayaking and e-sports.

"These offbeat courses are fine if they are designed for the benefit of students' physical and mental health. However, it’s not necessary if they aim only to expand students’ skills," Zhang said.

These courses cater to the needs of society and the demands of students, said Liu Haifeng, director of the Institute of Higher Education under Xiamen University, adding that in general, such novel courses will not become the main subjects of academic pursuits. Humanities and social sciences, along with the basic knowledge of natural sciences, will continue to form the "ballast" of academic curriculum.

In Liu’s opinion, when offering these types of courses, universities should take into consideration whether a specific course can really satisfy the needs of students and the public, rather than just permitting young people to pursue fun and novelty. 

(Web editor: Hongyu, Liang Jun)


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