In Search of the University "Goddess"

Over the past few weeks, “the goddess of Renmin University” has become one of the most popular topics on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media platform. It all started when Beijing’s Renmin University of China featured a young, attractive student in graduation robes on its once-conservative homepage. The new homepage -- specifically, the photo -- quickly caught the attention of Chinese cyber citizens. Renmin University’s website temporarily crashed due to a surge in traffic.

So far, more than 270,000 Weibo comments have been made about this pretty, yet mysterious graduate from Renmin. Weibo users, especially college students, named her “the goddess of Renmin University” and immediately started a large-scale cyber manhunt for her identity. The “goddess” turned out to be undergraduate art student Kang Yikun (康逸琨) from the class of 2013. Thanks to all the attention, her own Weibo profile @康易困 has amassed over 99,000 followers.

Renmin’s new homepage received many positive responses. Many Weibo users felt the website displayed the charm and beauty of young college students, and believed that other universities should follow suit instead of featuring the usual school announcements or activities. 

Others on Weibo believed that Renmin opportunistically changed its homepage to attract high school students applying for colleges. Weibo user @我爱围观 joked that uploading attractive students’ pictures on the website and installing air conditioning in the dorms are the two most crucial factors in attracting applicants. Others felt sorry for Tongji University, which featured six less attractive male students on its homepage. Weibo user @人人校招 said: “Tongji, you won’t have a single chance to compete with Renmin University! I can only say you have my deepest condolences in this year’s admission.” 

Inspired by Renmin, many universities have followed suit and uploaded their own photos of good-looking students. However, some Weibo users and college professors strongly oppose this trend, stating that colleges should highlight their academic achievements, not their attractive students. Some even believe that the trend may backfire by attracting masses of shallow applicants. But like it or not, the popularity of “the goddess of Renmin University” serves as an opportunity for Chinese universities to reconsider their marketing strategy.