While it may be a leisurely holiday for most graduates this summer, many others are preparing for their upcoming application for postgraduate degree. For quite a few, there is just one goal; avoid getting a job.
In recent years, the number of postgraduate students in China has increased significantly. According to the 2019 Employment Report of Chinese College Students released by the McCoth Research Institute, 73.6 percent of 2018 graduates are “employed”, a number which has been declining for 5 consecutive years. Those studying for postgraduate studies account for 16.8 percent, while those preparing for the postgraduate entrance examination account for 3.3 percent.
In some top universities, the number of graduates planning to further their studies is even more than 50 percent. According to China Youth Daily and China Youth Network, it has been found that most of those in top-ranking universities choose to pursue postgraduate study; 78.3 percent in Tsinghua University, 74.86 percent in Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics and 69.22 percent in Fudan University.
On the face of it, motivation for postgraduate study is always employment related. In the National Graduate Enrolment Survey Report 2019, published by China Education Online, 36 precent of those surveyed cited employment competitiveness as their primary motivation.
In an example closer to home, Luo Zhiwen, a Hydrometeorology graduate from Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST), who failed to get into the Jiangxi Weather Bureau, as it requires at least a master’s degree, felt there was no other option than to prepare for the postgraduate entrance examination, he told The Nanjinger.
Yet, the most interesting takeaway from the National Graduate Enrolment Survey Report in 2018 is that graduates readying themselves for the postgraduate examination appear to be far less prepared for entering society. Looking back at 2016’s report, it can be seen that 13 percent of those who chose to take the postgraduate entrance examination did so because they did not want to get a job, at least for that time being, to avoid entering society.
“After 1 year’s working experience, I found it disappointing and hopeless to work in [a] national company”, said another NUIST student, Bian Qihui, talking to The Nanjinger. Thus, she decided to study IT for her master’s degree.
Yet, it should be questioned whether the alienation of students in China is any different from that in other countries. Chen Hefang, the professor and doctoral supervisor of the School of Educational Sciences at Nanjing Normal University, has said that under the background of social transformation, “employment difficulty” has always been considered as the main cause for the popularity of postgraduate study.
The dangers in this kind of avoidance psychology and behaviour, based on students’ postponement of employment and a lack of self-development, are that they can lead to learning which is passive and feelings of inadequacy.
Thus there are calls now for students to not choose postgraduate study merely for the sake of it. Speaking with China Youth Network, Jiao Xiangyu, a teaching manager in Henan University, said, “The motivation for further study should be self-improvement and self-realisation. For those university graduates, the most important thing is to follow their heart and choose a direction considering their capability and resources”.