杭州 Hangzhou: Student Liveability

Victoria Ngai

University students in Hangzhou take an exam. (china.org.cn)

Background and Overview

I am looking at student liveability in Hangzhou, and I am defining "student" here as an independent university student who is not living with their parents. This topic deeply interests me since I have been studying in Hangzhou for one year. In this section, I will give an overview on the type of investigation I will conduct, including examples of investigations done by other people, and some background on Hangzhou.

Hangzhou is the capital of Zhejiang (浙江) province in China, located in southeast China on the southern end of Qiantang River (钱塘江). Being an EMDC, it has developed into a political, economic and cultural centre, and is one of China's most popular tourist destinations. Its main attractions/specialties include West Lake (西湖), Longjing tea (龙井茶) and silk. The Chinese have a saying: “上有天堂,下有苏杭” which describes Hangzhou as a heaven on earth along with Suzhou (苏州). Hangzhou was the Chinese capital during the Nansong (南宋) dynasty from 1127 to 1279, and was then part of Linan (临安). The images below show a map Hangzhou's location in China and in Zhejiang, and a map of modern Hangzhou from its government website:

Hangzhou's location (red) in China and Zhejiang province (orange). (commons.wikimedia.org)
Map of Hangzhou. (hangzhou.gov.cn)

As the whole of China experiences urbanisation and industrialisation, industries are beginning to contribute more towards the GDP, and Hangzhou's demographic has also been going through rural-urban migration as evidenced in the diagram below from the government website showing the percentage of the population living in town/city environments (majority) and village/rural environments (minority):

Structure of population in Hangzhou by the end of 2008. (hangzhou.gov.cn)

During the earlier steps of my investigation on student liveability, I found some professional studies that were previously done to measure and evaluate student liveability or liveability in general in different cities:

  • The Mercer Quality of Living Survey
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Liveability Ranking
  • The QS Best Student Cities index

The factors used by these studies that were used to evaluate “liveability” or “student liveability” include:

  • Universities/education
  • Student community (student mix)
  • Affordability
  • Quality of life
  • Employer reputation
  • Economic stability
  • Healthcare
  • Culture & Environment
  • Infrastructure

It also needs to be taken into account when doing an investigation like this that "student liveability" can be subjective to how different students live and also their individual values, but these areas of investigation can serve as a broad structure that can account for most students in developed cities like Hangzhou.


What are the pros and cons of liveability for students in Hangzhou?

1. What is the quality of life like in Hangzhou?

2. What are universities like in Hangzhou?

3. What other pull-factors are there for students coming to Hangzhou to study?

Quality of life in Hangzhou

Second-hand research

"To build a most livable city" is one of the Hangzhou government's goals. They are aiming to become a more resilient city, by, according to the description on their website, improving the environmental and ecological situation. The image below shows how urbanisation has affected land-use in Hangzhou over the years.

Land use in Hangzhou over the years. (mdpi.com)

This shows how despite developing economically and politically, Hangzhou has been struggling to coordinate urban socioeconomic development and ecological conservation sustainably. This affects the quality of life in Hangzhou, as evidenced in the survey results below.

First-hand research

Survey results chart 1. (primary source)

Reasons for answer to previous question (rate quality of life):

  • "发达,但交通不便,空气差"
    Developed, but transportation is not convenient, air is bad.
  • "不满意处:气候不好 夏天太热冬天太冷 满意处:城市的休闲氛围令人舒服"
    Cons: Climate isn't good, summer is too hot and winter is too cold. Pros: The city's casual atmosphere is relaxing.
  • "绿化面积高 有山水环绕"
    A lot of green areas, there are mountains and rivers around.
  • "除空气质量,其他基本都比较满意。"
    Apart from the air quality, everything else is basically ok.
  • "空气质量一般,雨天多,环境还算优美"
    Air quality is average, lots of rainy days, environment is quite beautiful.
  • "虽然气候不太好,夏天很热,冬天很冷。 但是物价还可以,生活休闲方面有许多选择,能认识许多有趣的人。"
    Even though the climate is not very good - the summer is very hot and the winter is very cold, commodity prices are still ok, there are a lot of choices for relaxing, and you can meet a lot of interesting people.

About the Survey
I sent an online survey using sojump.com to Wang Lu which he shared with his friends, who served as good primary sources and fit into my investigation target audience of university students living in Hangzhou. My survey had 8 questions altogether, and 6 people responded.

Survey interface. (primary source)


All responses showed that they were fairly satisfied with Hangzhou's quality of life, but none of them were completely satisfied. 5 out of the 6 responses mentioned in the second question that the air quality or climate in Hangzhou was a problem affecting liveability. Therefore it is evident that the quality of life in Hangzhou is satisfactory, but strongly influenced by its environmental issues as mentioned earlier on, and in order for it to become a more resilient city, the government and citizens must seek ways to solve these problems.

Universities in Hangzhou

Second-hand research

Part of Zhejiang University Xixi campus. (maps.google.com)

Hangzhou has several universities which are all located around the centre of the city in the functional zones (shown in the map below, which is zoomed in to the city centre), the most well-known being Zhejiang University, which is ranked  11th in the BRICS Rankings 2014/15 and 31st in the Asian University Rankings 2014/15. According to the BRICS Ranking, Zhejiang University's top qualities are academic reputation and employer reputation. This relates to my primary sources, who mentioned in the survey that Hangzhou has "a lot of interesting people" which shows that Hangzhou being an inclusive city helps to improve its student liveability.

Map of universities in Hangzhou. (maps.google.com)

From the map we can see the universities are located in some of the main functional zones of Hangzhou, including the central business districts (which are often shown on urban land-use models) located around the Qiantang River (the river flowing through the middle of the city). The street view of one of Hangzhou's CBDs is shown below.

Euro American Centre in Hangzhou. (airbnb.com)

First-hand research

These are the results of the second part of my survey that was sent to the same group of Hangzhou university students.

Survey results chart 2. (primary source)

These results are clearly more positive than the results for the previous question about Hangzhou city in general. Here are their reasons for the responses:

  • "有活力" - Energetic.
  • "好处:自由 机会多 不足:对文科重视不够"
    Pros: Lots of freedom and opportunities. Cons: Not focused enough on liberal arts.
  • "我的理想大学,环境好,同学优秀"
    It's my dream university, good environment, outstanding students.
  • "自由求是,开放的环境更有利于个人自主成长"
    Lots of freedom, open environment supports individual proactive growth.
  • "世界一流大学" - One of the world's top universities.
  • "浙江大学提供了许多国际交流的机会,也聚集了一批有意思的人。学校在国内的认知度比较高,能给我们更广阔的职业发展空间。 不过课堂教学方面感觉还是比较弱的。"
    Zhejiang University provides lots of chances for international interaction, and brings together a bunch of meaningful people. It's quite well-known in China, and can give us wider career development opportunities. But I think the classroom teaching is still quite weak.


My research shows that the benefits of universities in Hangzhou include the freedom, opportunities, environment and people, as evidenced by the key points mentioned in the students' responses (bold and italic). These key factors are influenced by the university's location, since being located in a CBD would mean more exposure to  a wider range of and more international living/teaching styles, people, job opportunities and environments.

Other pull-factors of Hangzhou

Hangzhou's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd compound. (europe.chinadaily.com.cn)

From the last part of my survey to the same group of Hangzhou university students, we can see that other pull-factors of Hangzhou include:

  • "可以见到很多创业大牛" - There are many big entrepreneurial businesses.
  • "接近上海,机会相对内地较多" - Close to Shanghai, more opportunities.
  • "地处长三角经济发达 机会多 环境优美" - Located near the Yangtze River Delta, prosperous economy, lots of opportunities, beautiful environment.
  • "无论自然环境还是人文环境,都还不错。" - Environment and people are good.
  • "浙大很厉害" - Zhejiang University is very amazing.
  • "既能够有一定的休闲生活,又能够接触到浓厚的创业氛围。也就是说,生活节奏可以很快,也可以很慢,有许多选择。这里有很美的风景,有适合慢生活的地方;也有很有名的创业公司,适合拼搏奋斗。这里聚集了大量的优秀企业家,会给城市带来许多创新的活力。" - You can have a relaxing life and still gain great entrepreneurial experience. Life can be fast or slow paced, there are many choices. There are beautiful views and also many well-known businesses, providing the environment to work hard. Many outstanding entrepreneurs gather here and give the city lots of innovative spirit.

The video below shows the story of Alibaba developing in Hangzhou, beginning when Jack Ma gained inspiration on the power of internet during a trip to Seattle. It closely relates to the responses shown above (main points in bold and italic).

Overall, Hangzhou is a fairly liveable city for students. Here are the main pros and cons summarised from my investigation:

  • PROS: People, opportunities, environment. (Inclusiveness factors)
  • CONS: Climate, air quality, transportation. (Resilience factors)

Looking into the future, Hangzhou will continue to be an inclusive city and will become more so as China develops internationally. However, resilience and sustainability will only worsen if the citizens of Hangzhou continue to sacrifice natural resources for economic development. One of Hangzhou's major problems - transportation also needs to be solved by the government in order to help Hangzhou become a more resilient and well-functioning city.


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