College students in China take gap year to start own businesses
Updated 19:34, 16-Nov-2020
By Chen Tong

The latest employment data shows that China has completed its full-year target of increasing urban jobs ahead of schedule. Among those jobs, many Chinese college students are now taking a gap year from their classes to get their own companies going.

Data from the Ministry of Education shows that around 3,700 students in China have left campus to start their own careers over the past five years. The ministry said at a press conference that it is encouraging for universities to promote flexible credit systems to help students start their own careers – on campus, or off.

At Shanghai Jiaotong University, one or two students every year decide to take a gap year to develop their own companies. There are now 2,000 students working on new businesses at the incubator the university created when the entrepreneurial trend became clear.

The university says that whether or not students take gap years to develop businesses really depends on what types of projects they are undertaking – for those that need a lot of promotion, taking a year off could be a better choice.

"Most of the students need to take a gap year because they are working on some new business models. Especially in this business environment, if you want your innovation company to survive, you need to have technology and expertise to offer strong support for your company," said Zhang Zhigang, general manager at Shanghai neoBay Venture Capital.

Yuan Wei started his company in 2014 while continuing with his classes. He thought of taking a year off because the combination of work and study was a very heavy load, but then decided to stay on campus after all.

"I had a project that needed me to do a lot of marketing in 2017 and 2018. I was thinking about taking a gap year and devoting myself to the project just so I could move the marketing forward," Yuan said.

After consulting with his professor, however, Yuan wound up staying on campus, because his firm was developing autonomous driving technology which needs strong research support.

But there are students who have decided to temporally put aside their studies like Li Niyong, who is now in the northwestern Chinese city of Xi'an to promote his college student service platform.

"I'm a graduate student, so I have the pressure of academic research and finishing my essay, since I was supposed to graduate this year. But my company's business started up very quickly after the pandemic and I just couldn't handle the two things at the same time, so I decided to take a gap year," Li said.

Whatever students' choices might be, universities remain ready to provide a solid backbone for them.