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2022-05-19 08:55:23

A district in Huzhou City, eastern Zhejiang province, is offering a free live-in study camp and handing out cash incentives for prospective postgraduate students in an attempt to attract a talent pool willing to settle down in smaller cities.

Wuxing District’s initiative — it claims to be the first of its kind for students preparing for the rigorous postgraduate exams — offers free tutorials, seminars, and study rooms, as well as a 500 yuan ($75) monthly stipend, according to a letter sent to domestic universities circulating online.

The facility consists of individual study rooms spanning over 3,000 square meters and beds for some 1,000 students, according to domestic media. The facility in Huzhou was launched in March and is run by Shanghai-based company Zhimao Human Resources.

Jiang Peng, founder of Zhimao, told domestic media that about 300 students, mostly from nearby areas, were currently preparing for their exams at the camp. He rejected Sixth Tone’s interview request Thursday, citing “increasing pressures brought by more attention.”

Wuxing District’s initiative is part of the city government’s efforts to attract young talents, officials told domestic media. Huzhou, which is nearly two hours’ drive from Shanghai, accounts for about 5% of Zhejiang’s gross domestic product and has one local university, one college, and two vocational schools.

It’s not uncommon for regional governments to entice young educated individuals through incentives ranging from rental benefits to offering hukou, or household registration, which is linked to a range of social benefits from healthcare to access to education.

However, experts warn that using exam-oriented education schemes hoping to benefit the economy could harm the area’s talent development in the long run. They said that more and more college graduates are pursuing a postgraduate degree to gain advantage in the competitive job market which leads to “degree inflation.”

This year, 4.57 million people registered for the annual postgraduate admission exam scheduled for late December, according to the Ministry of Education. That’s up 21% from 2021, hitting a record high.

The rising demand has also boosted the growth of the postgraduate exam training market. In 2020, the sector amassed 11.2 billion yuan in revenue and is estimated to grow to a size of over 20 billion yuan in 2023, according to a report published by consultancy Analysys last year.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: People study for postgraduate exams at a library in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, 2021. Wu Junjie/CNS/VCG)