A Chinese university has had to defend itself for including a module that requires students to gain followers on social media in order to pass.
The South China Morning Post reported that the Henan University of Finance and Economics’ course on social media operations must add 1,001 new contacts on Tencent-owned WeChat to pass and 1,667 to get a distinction.
Students then complained about the volume of the connections needed, arguing that it was too high to be able to reach the pass mark.
According to the reports, Chen Haifeng, a faculty member of the school, said: “It is a practical course. Making new WeChat friends develops a student’s ability with new media.”
“Adding WeChat friends is only one of the three criteria,” Chen explained.
“I told [the students] this is going to be difficult, but it is part of the skill set they should acquire if they want to work for new media companies. So now the students understand the goal better and are trying hard to add friends.”
In the digital and advertising industry, large numbers and reach have been called into question as ‘vanity metrics’ recently, with more attention placed on the quality of audiences.
The focus on numbers has also led to bad practice on social media platforms, including the development of fake followers and the buying and selling of accounts for the audience.
The university said that the scores for gaining new followers represented just 10-15% of the total score and that other methods and lessons were being taught.