China has a kind of special university with an average student age of above 60 years. The curriculum is extensive but easy, offering foreign languages, computer skills, music, dance, photography, painting and other crafts, sports and cooking. At those universities, students are free from academic pressure and don’t have to worry about getting a job. It is called the Senior Citizens’ University (SCU).
The first SCU was opened in east China’s Shandong Province in 1983. By 2018, there were over 62,000 such universities nationwide, with approximately 13 million students, including those taking online courses. The figure accounted for half of the SCU enrolments around the world. Statistics show that China has about 250 million people aged 60 and above, or 17.9 percent of the total population. While the aging population is increasing, senior citizens are eager to learn more. Today, many Chinese SCUs offer not only courses in traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting, literature and science, but also in snooker, digital graphic design and video editing.
The concept of SCU or better known as the Third-Age University (U3A) originated in France in the 1970s. However, unlike their counterparts in China, the U3As in the West offer disciplines such as philosophy, history, literature and international relations to meet students’ diverse needs. In recent years, SCUs have become very popular in China. Sometimes applicants have to draw lots to get admission to certain courses. Most SCUs in China are sponsored by the government and the average tuition fee is about 200-500 yuan (30-74 U.S. dollars) per semester. According to the Ministry of Education, more SCUs will be set up to ensure senior citizens live a fulfilling life.
Apart from education, senior citizens also need things like elderly care and medical care. To improve the quality of services for them, China is gradually opening the market to domestic and global players. Commercial elderly care organizations are coming up, the threshold for private investors for the sector has been lowered, and access for foreign investors widened. Administrative approval procedures have also been simplified so that all in all, more senior citizens can enjoy a better life.
Submitted by Neil Bonnell, tutor to the China Today group.
Further reading: ‘Chinese universities only for senior citizens’