PolyU gears up for four-year university structure

At the 13th Congregation of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) held yesterday (1 December), University President Prof. Poon Chung-kwong said PolyU is taking active steps to prepare for the implementation of four-year university curriculum. Two Vice Presidents are leading a special taskforce to take charge of related matters.

Prof. Poon said: “We are keenly aware that this structural reform is not just about the additional year for learning. We must address the needs of society and devise innovative new curricula and pedagogies, so that our students can achieve their full potential. This is the best way to groom a new generation of graduates.”

In terms of curriculum reform, PolyU’s main task is to implement the two integrations, namely “integrating across disciplines” and “integrating theory and practice”.

Given the successful track record of double-degree programmes in broadening students’ thinking and vision, PolyU will continue to launch similar programmes to provide students with a broader knowledge base to meet the needs of society. Its newly designed programmes will also offer students more choice of minor subjects. This will not only enable them to excel in their own professional fields, but will also broaden their knowledge.

The University took the lead in launching double-degree programmes as early as 2001. It now offers some 15 double-degree programmes, the highest among local institutions. Such programmes, which emphasize assimilation and integration, will deepen students’ learning and broaden their horizons.

As for integrating theory and practice, PolyU will, through the implementation of Work Integrated Education (WIE), arrange placement opportunities for students, so that they can gain invaluable work experience related to their academic disciplines. They are also expected to take initiative to find practical solutions to solve the problems they encounter during their placements. With such an approach, PolyU graduates can be equally well versed in theory and practice, and empowered with creativity.

“I believe that under the new academic structure, not only will the articulation with the mainstream Mainland and overseas systems be facilitated, but, given the additional year, our students will also be provided with a more comprehensive and all-round education,” he said.

Prof. Poon also called upon the Government to provide sufficient resources to support the universities’ endeavours. On top of money, there should be enough land for the expansion of our campuses and hostels to accommodate the extra intake of students.

The University planned to build a new block to the northwest of the current campus to meet the needs of the new academic system. A Design Centre is also being planned on campus to facilitate the expansion of the School of Design and multidisciplinary design teaching and research. Both construction projects are expected to be completed by 2011.

In addition, the construction of dedicated building for the School of Hotel and Tourism Management is in full swing. The new premises will house the teaching and research hotel, which include some 280 guest rooms, conference facilities, teaching and research facilities, offices and staff quarters. This project is expected to be completed in 2010.

Prof. Poon also urged the Government to provide more university places to enhance the quality of young people, so that Hong Kong can maintain its competitive edge as a knowledge-based economy and develops itself into a regional education hub. He said the Government could support more private universities by providing lump-sum subsidy for their initial establishment before they operate on a self-financed basis.

On the other hand, Prof. Poon said the authorities concerned should formulate a more comprehensive set of criteria which more accurately reflect research capabilities of different types of institutions. Only then will it be possible to encourage all the institutions to capitalize on their respective strengths to serve society.

In terms of scientific research, PolyU’s mission is geared to benefit mankind. In addition to basic research, the Institution has focused on applied research and technology transfer, so as to help increase the productivity and competitiveness of the industrial and professional sectors, which will in turn drive the national and domestic economies forward.

Prof. Poon also cited several examples to illustrate the practical orientation of PolyU’s scientific research. These included PolyU’s participation in Sino-Russian Mars Mission by developing the “Soils Preparation System”; exploiting the use of fibre optic sensor technologies to enhance the operation and safety of railways through the “PolyU-KCRC Smart Railway Research Laboratory”; and the development of new drugs for the treatment of liver cancer, with clinical trial supported by the University of Hong Kong.

This year PolyU is celebrating its 70th Anniversary. The University has progressed from its earliest days as the Government Trade School, founded in 1937, to become the Hong Kong Technical College after World War II, and was eventually named the Hong Kong Polytechnic in 1972. Since late 1994, PolyU has become a fully-fledged university of fine repute. Over the years, the Institution has groomed nearly 250,000 graduates.