Ma Lin packed her laptop and textbooks and walked to a housing block near her university. She knocked at the door of an apartment which looked like any other.
Ma was shown into an apartment stripped of beds and furniture. Instead there were big tables with lamps and sockets.
Ma sat down to study English vocabulary. A partition provided some privacy. Ma, not her real name, was not visiting friends. She had paid for a place to study. Water is for free, but students pay 5 yuan per hour.
However, Ma, 21, a sophomore majoring in Chinese literature at Beijing Foreign Studies University, thinks it’s worth the money. She said: “While my schoolmates get up early and rush to the library for a seat, I can take a leisurely walk after lunch to the secluded flat.”
The study flat opened two months ago. Ma is worried that if it becomes popular she may have to get up early to grab a seat.
In summer, a sweltering dorm is not the ideal place to study. Many students remain on campus to prepare for postgraduate school entrance examinations or English tests for application for overseas schools.
They look for air-conditioned places. That’s not as easy as you might think. Students queue outside the library at 6:30 am. Most classrooms are locked when no class is scheduled.
So you can either sweat in your dorm or pay for an overpriced cup of coffee in a café and try to ignore the background noise.
Businessmen rent flats in housing blocks near universities and turn them into study lounges. Some also rent vacant classrooms from universities.
According to The Beijing News, Xinyang Normal University has let out three classrooms in this way. Students pay 65 yuan per month to rent a seat and to enjoy air-conditioning and hot water. But such facilities are quite popular among students.
Li Yuteng, 24, is doing his master’s deGREe in finance at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He need not worry about finding a comfortable place for study.
He can visit libraries, campus cafés and study lounges in the dorm buildings. You don’t need to buy a drink in order to sit in a café. And libraries and study lounges are open around the clock.
However there is a price to pay and that is the high tuition fee. Li explained: “I have to say that the cost of all the facilities which are so-called ‘free’ is included in the high tuition fee.”
Students in China pay relatively lower tuition fees than those studying in overseas schools. But does it mean they should enjoy fewer or even insufficient resources?
Yang Xiong, a teacher from Oujiang College of Wenzhou University, argues that schools are obliged to offer students places to study in their spare time if they truly need them.
And, more importantly, schools should offer them for free.
Yang said: “An effective way to solve the problem is to give students free access to classrooms when there is no class schedule.”
In Yang’s college, all the classrooms are open to students during self-study time in the morning and at night. An air-conditioned teaching building is open to students in the summer vacation.
However, Yang disaGREes that libraries and classrooms should be open around the clock.
He said: “Students may form the bad habit of staying up late and boning up for exams. Study should be a process throughout the semester instead of several nights before the exams.”