China's student population is facing pressure to live on campus through a mixture of threats of expulsion and a package of perks, in a bid to stop an exodus to better and cheaper accommodation in private rented flats.
The Ministry of Education recently ordered students back to the dormitories, ostensibly for their own safety, but few took the regulation seriously. Some local education authorities have now issued decrees to enforce the measure.
The Guangdong provincial education bureau declared that any student who refused to move back to campus faced expulsion.
But many students said they would rather risk the consequences of breaking the ban than pay for what they described as substandard accommodation.
Others were prepared to pay for dormitory rooms while staying in better quality housing off campus.
One student said: "Whenever there is a dorm inspection, my roommate informs me in advance and I get there in time and pretend I live there."
Students are typically allocated to an overcrowded single-sex dorm with no choice of roommate. There are frequent inspections by university staff and compulsory lights-out at 10pm or 11pm.
A survey found that 40 per cent of off-campus students preferred to rent flats with their partners, 30 per cent said they had quit the dorm to evade the strict rules, while 22 per cent said they just wanted a quieter environment.
Nanjing University of Science and Technology is trying to tempt students back by offering free services for dorm residents, such as having their bicycle tyres inflated, cleaning and postal delivery.
A student counsellor at Shanghai's Jiaotong University echoed this view:
"Their rooms are a total mess, they have three meals a day delivered to them. You call that self-reliance?"