|Attendees fill a classroom to hear a professor from The Chinese University of Hong Kong give a lecture at Peking University. (Photo: China Daily)
By Zhao Xinying
BEIJING, Aug. 14 (Xinhuanet) -- On a hot summer day in July, well-known historian Zi Zhongyun was giving a lecture at Beijing Normal University.
Few students were in the hall, as most had already started their vacation. Most of those present were from off-campus.
Wang Shuilong was one of them.
He gained a master's degree in a military-related major in 2003 and has worked in a Beijing government office ever since.
Now in his late 30s, he has attended all kinds of lectures in the past six years.
"I wasn't busy, so I went to some lectures recommended by my friends, and it felt good," he said. "After that, I began to search for information on lectures on the Internet."
Wang is just one of many fans of summer lectures in the capital.
A micro blog account on the Sina Weibo website called Lectures at Peking and Tsinghua Universities has more than 100,000 followers, while a chat group on Internet company Tencent's platform on after-work lectures in Beijing has almost 500 frequent contributors.
Most people who follow the lecture circuit are white-collar workers from sectors including finance, education and pharmaceuticals, to design, IT and the media, as well as government employees. They often gather online to share information and personal experiences.
Having attended more than 1,500 lectures, Wang said he had achieved a different perspective.
"Lectures are nourishment for the mind," he said. "I have learned a great deal. I have acquired critical thinking."
Zhang Ziqiang, who set up Lectures at Peking and Tsinghua Universities on Sina Weibo in 2010, said it takes him three to four hours a day to update the account.
He said he has carried on because he treasures the opportunity to gain knowledge, and enjoys the process of attending lectures.
"Many followers send messages expressing their gratitude for the lecture information," he said. "It makes me feel I'm respected, and what I do is valuable."
Experts say the fast-changing society has driven people to continue studying.
"Life is full of uncertainties and risk, and people with limited knowledge may not be able to deal with all the situations they encounter," said sociologist Ge Daoshun with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
He said people have to keep learning under such circumstances, and attending lectures or taking part in public forums is a good and convenient way to do so.
"Through lectures and forums, people can acquire the habit of reflection and critical thinking, which enable them to adjust their way of working and thinking according to the changing situations," he said. "People like attending them because they find it helpful in adapting to the fast-changing society."
Getting equal opportunities with students of prestigious universities is another reason.
"Many lectures open to people from off-campus are in prestigious universities such as Tsinghua and Peking," said Long Hai, 46, who attends a lecture almost every night. "For people who didn't have the chance to go to a good college, like me, it's a great opportunity to experience how it feels to be a student at these universities."
Chu Zhaohui, a senior researcher on education with the National Institute of Education Sciences, said gaining access to prestigious universities gives people a chance to get in touch with professors or experts in academic fields, to broaden their horizons and deepen their understanding.
He also said he believes it is a college's duty to share its resources with society, such as by holding lectures open to the public.
"Our universities should be more open, giving more people who have passion an opportunity to learn," he added. "People, universities and society all benefit from the process."
(Source: China Daily)