Not only has China’s slumping real estate sector cooled down public confidence in the market, it has also swayed prospective college students from a once popular degree — civil engineering.
Amid fewer prospective students, some of the nation’s top civil engineering schools significantly lowered their admissions threshold this year, according to domestic media. Criteria for applicants from Hebei, Shandong, and Henan provinces, as well as the municipality of Chongqing, was particularly lowered.
Tongji University in Shanghai, known for its civil engineering degree, had the most dramatic province-related changes in its enrollment criteria this year. The most noticeable change was seen for applicants from the central Henan province — while only the top 1,730 students in the college entrance exam were considered for enrollment last year, the figure rose to 43,252 this year due to a lack of interest from potential students, the media report said.
Civil engineering was one of the top choices among Chinese high school graduates a decade ago. Many chose the field because of its promising employment prospects amid the real estate boom.
“I was told anyone could earn a stable and high income with this skill,” Dai Nan, a civil engineering graduate from Tongji University, told Sixth Tone. “And unlike programmers who can only earn a lot when they are young, the salaries for civil engineers grow as they get older.”
Many civil engineering graduates joined the country’s booming real estate industry. However, the continuous downturn in the housing market since the second half of 2021 has made it challenging to recruit prospective civil engineering students this year, according to experts.
While the debt crisis involving real estate giant China Evergrande Group made international headlines last year, the total sales among China’s 100 largest developers were down by 37% in November compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile, the real estate sector had the largest layoffs in 2021 followed by the internet industry, according to Liepin Big Data Research Institute.
Huang Guoru, a civil engineering professor at the South China University of Technology, told domestic media that engineering schools have been struggling to enroll students for some time. He said that “integrating some cutting-edge digital technologies into the teaching of traditional industries” would alleviate the problem.
“The information industry, which includes artificial intelligence, big data, computer software, and other related majors, has diverted a number of outstanding high school graduates in recent years,” Huang said.
Dai, however, believes that high-tech research in the academic world “is not going to stop the entire industry from going downhill.” Like many of his classmates, he pivoted to the financial industry right after graduation in 2016.
“It is just not a promising lifelong career like we used to think it would be,” Dai said.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: VCG)