My university, University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), is a top University in China. It ranks somewhere between 3 and 5 in the country on most ranking systems, and its a member of the C9 League, a coalition of the top 9 Universities of China. By most accounts, its a top academic performer.
Still, since my arrival, I’ve found my academic life to be somewhat frustrating. There is little guidance, the degree has unclear requirements, and there are very few challenging academic objectives. In a brief conversation with another foreign colleague, I brought this up, and I specifically mentioned how I found it odd that our department office was empty more often than not. His response was so good it bears repeating:
“Having lived in this post-apocalyspe [sic] environment for six years, none of the things you said surprised me. The only things that would surprise me would be a) having guidance and b) having any actual work to do. If the office is empty and the only people who occupy it are those drinking tea, sleeping and using chatting tools to talk to their friends, then everything is normal and as it should be.”
There you have it. I haven’t spent enough time here to verify to accuracy of this account, but I found it humorous enough to warrant some thought. Certainly, I don’t want to insinuate that the students and employees are lazy, but I think there is an attitude of doing the work when there’s work, and not doing work when there’s not.