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    As China’s Top Campuses Reopen, a Frenzy for Limited Visiting Slots

    With scalpers emerging to sell slots at inflated prices, genuine visitors are turning to social media and searching for tips and strategies on how to secure reservations for university visits.

    After a long hiatus amid COVID-19 restrictions, China’s top universities have reopened their doors to the public this summer. But the long-awaited opportunity to visit campuses has led to unexpected challenges — queues of eager parents, students, and tourists, all vying for the limited visiting slots.

    Taking advantage of the universities’ limited slots, scalpers have emerged to capitalize on the overwhelming demand. They resell reservations at sky-high prices, only adding to the frustration of genuine visitors.

    At Beijing’s Peking University, summer camp agencies colluded with alumni and used the latter’s privilege to register visitors, charging exorbitant fees of up to 10,800 yuan ($1,500) per person and particularly targeting summer camp participants seeking entry to the university. 

    In addition to the usual tourist attractions like theme parks, monuments, and museums, top universities have always been popular among parents and students across the country during the summer. 

    Aware of the immense public interest, universities implemented an online reservation system to manage the influx of visitors. At Tsinghua University, visitors can make online reservations up to seven days in advance, with new slots becoming available daily at 8 a.m. 

    Due to the overwhelming demand, however, all slots at Tsinghua University are fully booked until Aug. 1. A maximum of 4,000 visitors are allowed to enter the campus per day, further intensifying the competition for available spots.

    Despite waking up early for three consecutive days, Zhang Heng, the father of a sixth grader, was unable to secure reservations to visit Peking University or Tsinghua University. 

    “I was prepared for long queues at the Forbidden City or at Universal Studios,” Zhang told Beijing Business Today. “I never expected that getting into Tsinghua and Peking University would be more challenging on our Beijing trip.”

    Visitors are now asking for help on social media, where netizens share tips on successfully booking slots. One such post recommended that the key moment to secure a spot was within the first 10 minutes of the daily slots opening to the public. 

    But some are turning to scalpers, who also offer reservations on social media at prices ranging between 300 and 500 yuan.  

    When Sixth Tone posed as a visitor, one scalper named “Tsinghua University Campus Reservation” on the lifestyle app Xiaohongshu said that it would cost 300 yuan per person to visit a top university’s campus on any given day. 

    The scalper claimed to have a connection with a Tsinghua University student who could invite and register family members and friends as visitors on the school’s official portal.

    Such visitors also find themselves competing with summer study camp agencies, which offer students the opportunity to visit educational establishments like museums, universities, and historical sites. According to Yicai News, the number of study camp service orders has surged 30-fold compared to last year.

    Since Tsinghua University and Peking University only allow primary and middle schools, as well as other education authorities, to make reservations for group visits, the surge in popularity has compelled study camp agencies to allow individual bookings, which has further complicated the situation. 

    On July 24, Peking University announced that a study camp agency had exploited alumni privileges to register 139 students as visitors, charging each person 10,800 yuan. In response, the university has since revoked the access of 46 alumni to the visitor reservation system and also implemented stricter rules for alumni to bring visitors onto the campus.

    Additional reporting: Yang Keyi; editor: Apurva. 

    (Header image: A group of students outside the east gate of Tsinghua University in Beijing, July 14, 2023. VCG)