Civil engineering degree loses appeal as real estate market cools

Not only has the collapse of China’s real estate sector dampened public confidence in the market, it has also swayed potential students of a once popular degree – civil engineering.

Amid fewer prospective students, some of the top civil engineering schools in the country have significantly lowered their admissions threshold this year, according to the national media. The criteria for applicants from Hebei, Shandong and Henan provinces, as well as Chongqing Municipality, have been particularly lowered.

Shanghai Tongji University, known for its civil engineering degree, saw the most dramatic province-related changes in its enrollment criteria this year. The most notable change was seen for applicants from the central province of Henan – while only the top 1,730 college entrance exam students were considered for enrollment last year, the figure has risen 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 ten years ago. Many chose the field because of its promising job prospects amid the real estate boom.

“I was told that anyone can 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 make a lot of money when they’re young, civil engineers’ salaries go up as they get older.”

Many civil engineering graduates have joined the country’s booming real estate industry. However, the continued slowdown in the housing market since the second half of 2021 has made it difficult to recruit future civil engineering students this year, according to connoisseurs.

As the debt crisis involving real estate giant China Evergrande Group grabbed international headlines last year, total sales for China’s top 100 developers were down 37% in November compared to the same period last year. Meanwhile, the real estate sector recorded the largest layoffs in 2021, followed by the internet industry, according at Liepin Big Data Research Institute.

Huang Guoru, professor of civil engineering at South China University of Technology, Told national media that engineering schools have been struggling to recruit students for some time. He said “integrating some advanced digital technologies into the education of traditional industries” would alleviate the problem.

“The information industry, which includes artificial intelligence, big data, computer software and other related fields, has hijacked a number of outstanding high school graduates in recent years,” Huang said.

Dai, however, believes that high-tech research in academia “will not prevent the whole industry from going downhill.” Like many of his classmates, he turned to the financial sector right after graduating in 2016.

“It’s just not a promising career like we thought,” Dai said.

Publisher: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: VCG)