In the past ten years, the academic level among universities in Hong Kong has largely been raised, which could be ascribed to Chinese mainland scholars and researchers who have participated in academic exchange programs in the city, said President and Vice-Chancellor of Hong Kong Baptist University Ng Ching-fai in a recent interview with Xinhua News Agency.
The president talked about changes of Hong Kong tertiary education in recent ten years, saying that during the early stage of Hong Kong's return to the motherland, affected by economic downturn, local universities inevitably faced the challenges of cutting budgets, which had become their hardest time within the decade.
However, even though they were in face of adverse situation, Ng said, "Each institute keeps working hard, leading to a steady rise of academic level and fruitful research studies."
Since Hong Kong's return to the motherland, interflow of people between Hong Kong and Chinese mainland in different circles including the tertiary education field has become more frequent, where many Chinese mainland scholars came as visiting or even full-time scholars.
Short-term exchange programs for Chinese mainland researchers which have been run by Baptist University for many years were met with applause. According to Ng, both parties, Hong Kong and Chinese mainland participants, were happy with such kind of exchange, and such an atmosphere has helped lift Hong Kong's academic level.
"There is an obvious improvement of the entire academic level of Hong Kong in the recent decade. It is largely due to the extensive communication between Hong Kong and Chinese mainland institutes, " Ng said, adding that Chinese mainland universities and scholars, to a certain extent, have made big contribution to Hong Kong's academic world.
Like most other tertiary institutes do, Baptist University has put a lot of effort in pushing ahead with the exchange between Hong Kong and Chinese mainland students. The University has even taken a step forward. Together with Chinese mainland's Beijing Normal University, it jointly founded the United International College which is the first full-scale collaboration between a Chinese mainland and a Hong Kong academic institution, and is approved by the Ministry of Education.
"Our aim is to establish a liberal arts based tertiary institute which Chinese mainland now lacks," said Ng. The college stresses to have a favorable ratio of teachers and students and that teachers were concerned about students; the college uses English as the medium of instruction, which all these conditions were very different from that of Chinese mainland institutes.
From 2005, the number of students, mainly from Hong Kong and Chinese mainland, in the college has accumulated to about 1,200 and the full capacity will be 4,000.
Talking about Hong Kong itself, Ng suggested that the changing of university education system from three academic years to four in 2012 will do more good than harm to students.
"Heads of all local universities show great support to the reform. The new system will not only add credits to students' study timetable, but also enables them to have a more comprehensive learning experience," Ng said.
In the interview, President Ng also dealt with the issue about whether Hong Kong is capable of being an educational hub in Asia. He expressed his view by saying that having universities with good academic levels is the most basic and a necessary requirement for a city to become an educational hub.
"Hong Kong has already possessed this favorable condition and has got enough attractiveness to students from the outside," Ng said, however, if Hong Kong could do better arrangement on student visa, accommodation and allowing non-local students to work during their stay, he believed the city could gain a broader range of talented students including those with financial difficulties.
(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2007)