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2022-08-05 09:18:59

A provincial higher education plan to not offer existing majors that have lower employment rates has raised questions over its fairness amid a looming job crisis.

Education authorities in the eastern Anhui province ordered universities to “halt enrollment” for majors with employment rates below 60% for three consecutive years, according to the higher education reform plan published July 20. Based on the 2021 employment trend, the decision would put a wide range of majors at risk, including finance, law, languages, and broadcast journalism.

Zhao Zhenhua, head of the province’s education bureau, said in a press conference last month that the plan aims to better support local talents in crucial industries, as the province seeks to become a domestic tech powerhouse. According to the plan, of all the majors in the province’s universities, 70% should serve the “top 10 emerging industries” — including new energy vehicles, intelligent appliances, and health — with more than 2 million professionals by 2025.

While a similar practice has existed before — the education ministry introduced a mechanism in 2011 to phase out underperforming majors — Anhui’s policy suggests abruptly suspending the academic programs. The media coverage on the new policy fueled wide discussions on the topic.

“Considering the necessity of majors from just one perspective is a step backward for education,” Jiang Lanxin, president of Huaxia College of Management, commented on microblogging platform Weibo. “The nature of education is to grant freedom of thought, judgment, and imagination, and employment shouldn’t be the only purpose.”

Experts said achieving a 60% employment goal would be a challenge for many majors amid a falling employment rate and may create falsified job data. Many provinces recorded an overall employment rate of between 30% to 50% among graduates as of late May, financial outlet Caixin reported, citing official reports.

Xiong Bingqi, director of the 21st Century Education Research Institute, wrote in a commentary that it was necessary to curb any flaws. He suggested the government provide universities with better information services in building a more scientific discipline system.

“Such information can include forecasting the demand for talents, overview of similar majors across colleges and universities, the employment direction of graduates of similar majors, and the students’ medium and long-term career development after graduation,” Xiong wrote. “The government should take the initiative and entrust the services to an independent third party for long-term tracking and analysis to help universities in creating majors.”

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: College graduates look for jobs posts at an employment fair in Jining, Shandong province, July 30, 2022. VCG)