City University is to launch Hong Kong's first degree course in nuclear and risk engineering - a decision made before the crisis at the Fukushima reactor in Japan.
The magnitude-9 earthquake and the devastating tsunami that hit northeast Japan on March 11, crippling the nuclear power plant, has triggered a global backlash against nuclear power.
But the university said the idea to offer a degree in nuclear management next year was not a result of the present crisis. It had instead been driven by strong market demand for nuclear-energy experts, as many Asian countries were switching to nuclear power to fuel their growing economies.
In Guangdong, more than 12 nuclear power reactors are under construction.
The four-year degree course offered by the faculty of science and engineering will cover nuclear physics, nuclear power, radioactivity and mechanical training.
It was unveiled yesterday as City University outlined its academic plans for 2012-15.
'We handed in the proposal to the university grants committee to offer the programme back in mid-February, before the earthquake,' said Paul Lam Kwan-sing, vice-president of student affairs at the university.
'We have two elected members of the US National Academy of Engineering - including our president Kuo Way. We have close to 10 experts in the field to teach the programme.'
There will be 25 openings for the programme every year, and Lam said the nuclear crisis in Japan and the moratorium on nuclear projects in China would not dampen demand.
He said: 'Developing nuclear energy is the national policy of China. Following the nuclear crisis in Japan, China will review and strengthen its safety mechanisms, but it will not change national policy. Experts in managing nuclear plants and their operational safety will be in great demand.
'Graduates can work in nuclear stations on the mainland or stay in Hong Kong to work as crisis management and radioactivity experts.'
Lam said students would have to study mechanical, electrical and other fields in engineering. 'If they do not work in nuclear-related fields in future, there will be a lot of career opportunities open for them.'
He added that the university was also planning to give students from other disciplines the chance to learn about nuclear-related subjects.
He said: 'We will have 200 general education subjects in 2012. We have so far designed 80 to 90 of them and are considering including nuclear-related courses.'
A big change in how students choose their majors was also announced yesterday in an effort to give as much flexibility as possible to undergraduates.
Instead of choosing their main field of specialisation before they enter university, students beginning their four-year degree studies in 2012 will be able to pick their major upon completion of the first year.