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It's a woman's world in higher-ed
Global Times | December 06, 2011 19:47
By Song Qi
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Lü Ang, a 23-year-old graduate student at Communication University of China (CUC), experienced an embarrassing moment during a recent trip to the restroom in a classroom building at CUC.

"I've forgotten that this restroom had recently been converted into a women's room," he said. "I rushed in and rushed out again immediately."

Lü is certainly not the only man to make this mistake, as CUC has recently transformed half of the men's toilets in classroom buildings into women's.

"It can be a bit annoying, but I understand why they did it," Lü said. "Before the shift, girls would have to line up forever in order to use the toilet."

This restroom shift is just one symptom of a growing issue confronting many college campuses: the proliferation of female students, often at the expense of boys.

"At CUC, girls far outnumber boys," said Xu Baoquan, chief of the CUC Logistics Service Center. "We've been struggling to accommodate this demand."

Lü counts nine male students and 22 female students in his major of communication studies and only four male students to a whopping 47 female students in the international journalism department.

"I haven't spoken to a boy in over a month!" joked Huang Xiaoyun, one of Lü's female classmates.

Similar shifts in facilities have taken place at Guangdong University of Business Studies and Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, in a policy which received majority support from both male and female students, according to the newspaper Yangcheng Evening News.

Proliferation of 'nunneries'

These anecdotal reports are backed up by statistics which demonstrate that female enrollment on campuses is indeed far outstripping that of men.

In 1957, girls accounted for 23.2 percent of all university students, a proportion which increased to 33.4 percent by 1988. In 2007, girls outnumbered boys for the first time on campuses across China, a trend which is only accelerating, according to the China Youth Daily.

According to statistics from the Henan Province Department of Education, 56,341 men and 64,386 women registered to attend the 2012 entrance examination for master's of arts degrees, with female students performing better on exams in history and humanities.

Indeed, different universities demonstrate vastly different gender ratios, with those concentrating on social sciences, including languages, media and education accounting for a far larger share of girls.

One word making the rounds on campus forums these days has aptly captured the image of these schools: "nunneries."

Some colleges have turned to social gatherings between schools in order to help students mix and mingle more frequently.

"If it weren't for this party, I'd be single now," said a 25-year-old graduate student at Beijing Normal University (BNU) surnamed Wang, in describing a social gathering held jointly by the student unions at Tsinghua University and BNU in September, at which Wang met her current boyfriend. "There are far too many girls at our university," she said.

Such imbalances are causing ripple effects in a variety of other aspects of life in China, including the job market.

"We set stricter standards for female applicants," a HR manager at a company in Beijing, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Global Times. "There are simply too many of them."

Likewise, Shi Xin, a senior at Jinan-based Shandong University, said that despite being more qualified than many of her male classmates and applying to a variety of jobs, she has yet to land a gig for after graduation

"It's totally unfair," she told the Global Times.

Fair or not?

According to Peng Xiaohui, a professor at Shanghai-based East China Normal University, "natural communication" between boys and girls depends on maintaining a healthy balance between the genders.

"I don't think we've passed some kind of tipping point," Peng said. "But the trends are certainly alarming."

However, Wang Qin, a professor of feminism at CUC, said boys had held an outsized majority in universities for most of recorded history, but that she fears this backlash may cause another, less organic backlash of its own.

"It's not really fair if universities have higher standards for girls in order to keep their gender ratios in balance," Wang said.

Pei Yuxin, a sociologist at Guangdong-based Zhongshan University, however, took a different viewpoint.

"Universities with majority female student bodies can be an empowering place for them," Pei said. "It can free them from the social pressures that come with studying and living alongside men."



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