Hardware matches software
While some of Hong Kong's best-known universities have spent years preparing for the launch of the four-year first-degree programmes in the 2012-2013 academic year, preparations at Chu Hai College of Higher Education have been much more low key. That's because the institution has operated a four-year curriculum since its 1947 inception.
Lin Ching-kit, a spokeswoman for the college, says Chu Hai must only make minor adjustments to meet the objectives of the new 3-3-4 academic structure. She says that during a review of its curriculum several years ago, the college realised the general direction that Hong Kong's education reform was taking and, as a result, focused on the existing four-year academic structure instead.
Lin says the college immediately strengthened General Education (GE) in its overall curriculum. 'We sensed the need to change, and, hence, we immediately made appropriate changes. We made changes not only to fit the new 3-3-4 requirements, but also because it was the right thing to do,' she adds.
Doing what was most needed prompted the college to improve its 'hardware' before expanding its 'software' offerings. After many years of fighting to have land granted by the government, its wish finally came true in 2009 when it was allocated a 1.6-hectare plot of land for a new campus, designed by 'starchitect' Rem Koolhaas. The site, in Castle Peak Bay, Tuen Mun, is expected to be completed in 2013.
'With the new campus we will be better equipped to further develop our long-standing four-year academic structure and advance many other school development plans,' Lin says. 'We are a bit disappointed that [due to delays in construction] we can't move into the new campus [in 2012] in time for the new 3-3-4 era. The new campus will be much larger than the existing campus [in Tsuen Wan], and will include both indoor and outdoor spaces,' adds Lin.
On completion of the first stage of the campus, Chu Hai will have at least three times more space than at its Tsuen Wan site.
The extra space will accommodate the college's plan to increase student numbers. From 2012, it will raise annual student intake by more than 50 per cent. At present, the intake is around 500-600 students per year. When the new campus is fully operational, Lin says it should be able to accommodate an augmented student body of 3,000 compared with the present 1,300. She expects the growth to occur gradually over the next few years before reaching its full capacity, and the number of students to swell to just below 2,000 next year.
To match its burgeoning student body, Chu Hai College will boost the number of academic staff by between 20-30 per cent, so that it can maintain its general teacher to student ratio of 1 faculty per 20 students.
Chu Hai has three faculties - arts, commerce, as well as science and engineering - which offer a total of 10 degree courses. Each degree course has major, elective and GE requirements with students needing a total of 135 credits to graduate. The school is adjusting its courses to focus on English, languages and culture, which Lin says are becoming more popular among students.
With an anticipated rise in student numbers, the college will increase its international exchange and internship programmes by boosting investment. It will also increase the number of mainland student intakes.
'We don't need a transition period to adjust to the new system as we are experienced in four-year programmes. We will enhance our [portfolio] to maintain our position,' says Lin.