Poly is in good health despite growing pains
Accusations of malpractice at the Hong Kong Polytechnic must be put in their
THE Polytechnic stands poised for a major new stage in its development with the forthcoming attainment of university status and title.
This important development should be seen in the context of a long process of growth and development since the Polytechnic was established in 1972, with roots going back to the former Technical College.
At that time, the Polytechnic had only 1,580 full-time students and all its work was at sub-degree level. This is a very different institution to the one we see today, with substantial provisions at degree and postgraduate level, a total student population of more than 26,000 full-timers and part-timers, and on the edge of becoming a fully-fledged university.
These changes are to fulfil its mission, which is to provide professionally oriented courses to meet the changing manpower needs of Hong Kong.
In a dynamic institution, change is inevitable and should be welcomed and embraced. In the Technical College era and in the early days of the Polytechnic, it was essentially a teaching institution for sub-degree courses with very little expectation of research activity by staff.
To cater for the future needs of Hong Kong, China and the region, the Polytechnic has worked hard in recent years to become recognised as a university.
This necessitates, amongst other things, the need for more academic staff with higher levels of qualification and experience, to assist the Polytechnic in its further developments.
Thus, while the Polytechnic is, and will, remain primarily a teaching institution, committed to high standards of excellence in this area, there is a particular need for more staff to contribute to the development of applied research and high-level consultancy.
There is a great need for these services in the community and it is our intention to do our best to provide them.
Naturally, but regretfully, the necessary processes of change, with increased emphasis on degree and post-graduate work, and requirements for more highly qualified staff and increased applied research activity, has generated some tensions within the institution.
Where genuine problems were found to exist in the past, we have investigated them and worked hard to find appropriate solutions - this approach will continue to be applied both now and in the future.
However, the existence of problems and the need to find solutions will not deter the Polytechnic in its ''will'' to move forward.
We are currently undergoing a process of rapid change so that we can more ably serve the Hong Kong community - such a process is not without pain for some people; we are mindful of this and seek to minimise its impact as far as is possible.
Allegations by anonymous individuals of ''research bribery'' and other forms of malpractice have been publicised recently, which may be seen by some as a symptom of these growing pains.
However, it is most unfortunate that a response signed by 26 staff in the same department from which the allegations originated has not been given the same, or indeed any, press attention.
Those who signed this response expressed their strong disapproval of the unprofessional conduct of the author(s) of the anonymous letter, and asserted that its contents were not substantiated by facts.
The large majority of the staff of the Polytechnic are dedicated to meeting the challenges of the future and are facing these with determination and enthusiasm.
They appreciate the concern expressed by members of the press. However, they also hope that the reasons and facts behind the allegations made can be given equal recognition and that their efforts and accomplishments can also be recognised.
Meanwhile, the senior management is actively engaged in producing a Strategic Development Plan through to the year 2001.
Key elements of this plan include a significant increase in continuing professional education, improved teaching methodology involving state-of-the-art multi-media technology, improving the communication skills of students, the development of a number of Centres of Excellence and enhanced academic exchange with China.
The true picture of the Hong Kong Polytechnic is of a successful institution going forward confidently and with enthusiasm to an exciting future as a professionally oriented, diverse, quality conscious university, contributing importantly to the growth and competitiveness of Hong Kong's business and industry.