Education

Time to internationalise

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 November, 2010, 12:00am

We have often heard Hong Kong's government mention various plans to improve our tertiary education by providing more resources and places for students. More needs to be done to take it to another level.

In the latest Times Higher Education world rankings, a number of Hong Kong universities topped the poll of Asian universities. We should be justifiably proud. And recent efforts to improve creativity in schools through new research centres are all welcome additions.

Yet to develop higher education, we must internationalise - by having more staff, students and teaching methods from abroad. Most of our 'international' students come from the mainland, and while they may contribute to the learning experience, they do not add an international dimension - something about which the top US and UK universities proudly boast.

Some critics say we should not increase our international student quota at a time when we face a lack of places for local students, yet such improvements can be made within the current quotas, or by increasing the capacities of our universities.

Subject areas within our tertiary institutions should also be better balanced; Hong Kong's universities have a strong focus on professional or market-oriented subjects, such as law, medicine and engineering. Yet other equally worthy areas, such as social sciences or humanities, get less attention and fewer resources.

This focus on professional degrees limits the diversity of graduates in our job markets and fails to develop different talents. Students should have well-rounded tertiary educational opportunities suiting the growing interdisciplinary needs of the 21st century.

We need famous foreign universities to set up branches here to raise standards and the internationality of education.

The Savannah College of Art and Design, opened in the former North Kowloon Magistracy building, is a good first step.

Yet I believe this can be expanded into a much wider project on all fronts - if the government really does want to raise the level of tertiary education.