Universities offer state-of-the-art programmes
In his article headlined, 'Tertiary education in need of a jolt' (South China Morning Post, January 25) and the follow up on February 8, Andy Ho made a number of comments about tertiary sector institutions, notably, that they lack dynamism, are resistant to change and do not meet community needs for lifelong learning.
This third charge, in particular, does not stand up to scrutiny.
For example, the University of Hong Kong had a government-funded load of 12,211 full-time equivalent students in 1998/99.
In addition, via its School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPACE), the university offered 83,300 course enrolments in 1998/99, equivalent to a further 12,702 full-time equivalent students.
Almost all of these courses were part-time and taken by those in full-time employment - with classes in the evenings and weekends in conveniently located downtown centres. Also, all these enrolments were self-financing.
This represents a significant contribution to the lifelong learning needs of the community and SPACE has been offering such opportunities since its establishment in 1956.
Most of the other tertiary institutions also have continuing education schools which, although smaller and more recently established than SPACE, also enrol significant numbers of lifelong learners.
Many academic members of staff in the University of Hong Kong have developed on-line learning material. SPACE is also developing a Web-based platform to support its students' learning needs.
Currently, about 4,000 students have access and by the end of the year it is expected that all SPACE students will be able to access on-line support.
Far from 'lagging behind their counterparts' the fact is that the continuing education units of the tertiary institutions are in partnership with 62 overseas universities to offer state of the art programmes to some 18,564 self-funded students outside the formal Hong Kong system. This is a sign of embracing globalism, not of lagging behind.
In terms of work-based learning too, there are developments.
SPACE has recently approved a formal degree programme in work-based learning with an overseas partner.
This will link academic and work-based projects.
A number of courses offered by SPACE require professional placements as is the case with professional programmes in the full-time university sector.
Moreover, the crucial factor in the popularity of courses offered by the university continuing education sector is precisely that they offer continuing professional development and updating of skills and knowledge. They do so across a wide range of professions and disciplines that are relevant to many in the workforce.
Programmes are offered at a range of levels from basic right up to postgraduate, so students can enter at the appropriate level and progress.
Also they are offered at times and places convenient to the working student.
Mr Ho is therefore mistaken in his assertion that 'universities are hardly equipped to offer programmes that are tailor-made to catch up with the rapid developments in the fields'.
The opposite is the case, the universities are eminently well equipped to do so.
What is more they are doing so, will continue to do so and have been doing so for many years.
Professor E. C. M. YOUNG Director School of Professional and Continuing Education University of Hong Kong