After gaining university status, Hong Kong Institute of Education must stick to its core mission of training teachers
Hong Kong looks set to have its eighth public university. Subject to approval by the Legislative and Executive councils, the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd), which has been granting tertiary degrees since before the handover in 1997, will likely become a full university by next year. This will be the biggest development for the teacher-training institution since it was formed in the mid-1990s by merging the city's five main institutions for educating teachers.
If completed, it will be the latest publicly funded tertiary institution to achieve university status and a milestone in Hong Kong's expansion of university places since the 1990s.
This is a welcome development that will benefit both the institute and the city at large. For the institute, becoming a university will help attract higher-calibre students, more generous donors and greater public recognition.
At a time when more and more parents are questioning the adequacy of the local public education system and declining language standards, the city needs more and better teachers.
The institute has been Hong Kong's primary teacher-training school and will continue to play that key role.
So any systematic attempt to improve the education system must involve the institute and its teacher-training programmes.
This should indeed be the primary mission for the institute to focus on. When a trade school becomes a university, there is often a temptation to expand curricula and start new programmes beyond its core competence.
As a new university, the institute must realise education is its only mission and resist expanding into unrelated academic fields. That is the way it can help its students to achieve their career goals and help Hong Kong to improve its overall education standards.