Event puts students in the seat of learning
Reports by Will Clem
Traditional colleges and online faculties from around the world showcase their programmes at this yearly expo
REPRESENTATIVES OF major educational institutions from all over the world are gathering at the Hong Kong Exhibition Centre today for the Nexus Education Fair 2004.
The annual event comes hot on the heels of exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai, and before the final show to be held in Singapore on Saturday and Sunday, as international educators embark on a whistle-stop tour to vie for the attention of some of Asia's finest young minds.
Organised by British-based public relations firm Nexus Media, it may not be the largest or highest-profile education show, but some exhibitors say Nexus is the one at which they will definitely find fewer browsers and more people serious about study.
For prospective students, it is a great chance to get to grips with the confusing assortment of learning options available.
With representatives from several institutions of all descriptions putting in an appearance, the fair offers a comprehensive view of the entire educational spectrum - from some of the most innovative e-learning methods available to the hallowed halls of the University of Hong Kong.
For the early session (12pm-3pm), there is even a free lunch.
The Nexus Education Fair is now in its 11th year. After showing in Hong Kong and Singapore for the first nine years, the exhibition expanded to include Hanoi, Ho Chih Minh City and Taipei last year, in a one-time-only visit.
This year, the Nexus fairs have made their first foray into the mainland, with exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai - evidence of the growing spending power of Chinese students.
Many exhibitors are from the educational old guard: traditional universities and well-established business schools.
This respected elite is represented by the University of London, Strathclyde Graduate Business School and the University of Western Australia.
But for those who do not want to travel to university, let the university come to you. The internet revolution has altered the playing field of tertiary, postgraduate and further education, moving the library into the living room.
This has created a new breed of university, one that is not bricks and mortar and does not exist in real space and time, but rather as a virtual entity. A qualification from one of these virtual institutions can carry just as much weight as a traditional one.
Drawing a link between the old and the new, Universitas 21 Global is an international business school offering MBA courses over the internet. It stands out because it is endorsed by 16 respected universities across four continents, including the University of Hong Kong, McGill University and the University of Edinburgh.
Other exhibitors are offering a middle option, a marriage of modern technology with more traditional teaching methods.
The Hartford Institute offers degree and postgraduate programmes from overseas universities taught in its local tutorial centre using video conferencing.
All levels of further education are to be found at the exhibition.
A failing of Hong Kong's education system is it is too easy for unmotivated teenagers to fall through the gaps - a problem exacerbated by the city's transition to a service-based economy.
Set out in 2001, the government's policy of supporting lifelong learning with non-means-tested loans and the continuing education fund has proven to be the incentive many people needed to finally pursue their dreams of further and higher education.
Caritas Adult & Higher Education Service is one of several providers of continuing education that will be exhibiting at today's fair.
Caritas has a comprehensive range of courses to put anyone back on the path to learning, whatever their age.
There are opportunities to pursue a full university degree through the charity's connections with overseas institutions such as the University of Sunderland in Britain, Kwantlen University College in Canada and the University of Missouri - St Louis in the United States.
HKU Space will also be exhibiting at the show, offering more than 900 full- and part-time courses in a wide range of fields.
Students looking for ways to improve their language skills will not be disappointed either - whatever their level.
There is a strong British presence at the fair, with the British United Education Services representing several schools and colleges.
The British Council - Scotland will also be on hand, hoping to entice visitors to learn the international language in a more northerly setting.
The Introducing Australia Study Centre will showcase the options available for studying English Down Under.
So, whatever your particular area of interest, or even if you are just curious to see what options are available, the fair is not to be missed.