China / Society

Work abounds for students majoring in environment

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily) Updated: 2012-07-04 08:39

Students studying environmental sciences enjoy increasing employment opportunities in China, according to a recent survey.

Environmental ecology undergraduate students had an employment rate as high as 94.3 percent in 2011, marking the third consecutive year of surging employment, according to the Chinese College Graduates' Employment Annual Report 2012.

The employment rate of environmental ecology undergraduates ranks sixth among the most sought-after majors, followed by power and energy, geology and mining engineering, nursing, civil engineering and agricultural engineering.

Other related majors, such as environment and safety, also reported higher employment over the past three years.

In 2010, 306 colleges in China began offering a major in environmental engineering, recruiting 18,444 students, while another 50 colleges enrolled 3,200 students in environment-related majors, making the total enrolment close to 22,000, according to a report from Science and Technology Daily.

"Chinese colleges did not have environment-related majors until the 1970s, and now we have developed a rather complete education system," said Yu Gang, dean of the School of Environment at Tsinghua University.

Tsinghua University began offering a major in environmental engineering in 1977, Yu said. In 1979, the Ministry of Education revised the catalogue of specialties and added environment-related majors in existing subjects such as chemistry, biology and geology.

"Take environmental engineering for example. Only 150 universities had this major in 1999, but now there are more than 360 universities offering the major," Yu said.

Nearly 500 universities will begin offering environment-related majors this year, Yu said.

According to the Chinese College Graduates' Employment Annual Report, only 0.7 percent of all college undergraduates held a job related to environmental protection.

"Providing environmental protection training to students of non-environment majors is more important," Yu said.

"If a student majoring in enterprises management has attended environment lectures in college, he will probably prevent his own company from discharging excessive pollutants."

At the Rio+20 Conference last month, the United Nations published an initiative made by college presidents worldwide to include sustainable development in core courses of main disciplines.

So far, Tsinghua University, Central South University of Forestry and Technology, Renmin University of China and Tongji University have signed the commitment.

Wang Min, an expert specializing in environmental education, said that education alone is not enough.

"In the past we taught environmental protection knowledge, but that is not enough, because it is people's environmental consciousness that influences their behavior, not their knowledge," Wang said.

"Students are influenced by the luxury atmosphere in society. In college, some do not turn off their air conditioners when they leave the laboratory. When some students see me riding a bicycle, they think I am strange," Wang said.

To change the ethos of society, Wang suggested that the government increase the fines and taxes on wasteful behavior and pollution.

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