FCLU equips its graduates with the means to work outside Hong Kong WHEN STUDENTS graduated from the original Polytechnic University's faculty of construction and land use 70 years ago, most would certainly have spent their working careers confined to Hong Kong. Now it is almost as certain that many of them will, at some stage, use their skills elsewhere with careers on the mainland or further afield. Andrew Baldwin, dean of the faculty of construction and land use (FCLU), said graduates now had far more options when looking for work. 'There is an increasing awareness that students who come through PolyU will not spend their working lives in Hong Kong. 'Quite clearly, things are changing and our students will work in other parts of Asia and the mainland. This is the message we give them and increasingly they're accepting this.' It is not just the globalisation of the construction industry that is giving FCLU graduates more opportunities. The faculty has the largest group of lecturers in this field in Hong Kong to instruct more than 3,600 students. 'We have 120 academics across four departments,' Professor Baldwin said. 'This type of faculty is almost unique in the world as we cover everything to do with buildings except for architecture.' The extent and quality of the graduate and postgraduate courses available at the FCLU reflects the size of the academic staff and the scope of the facilities at PolyU. The university was founded in 1937 as the Government Trade School in Wan Chai, before becoming the Hong Kong Technical College in 1947 and then Hong Kong Polytechnic in 1972. The institution was granted full university status in 1994. The FCLU has grown in tandem with the institution and is made up of the departments of Building and Real Estate, Building Services Engineering, Civil and Structural Engineering and Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics. There are also eight research centres covering areas including geo-information science and technology, environmental technology and management, urban hazards mitigation and advanced technology in structural engineering. PolyU is now firmly established here and overseas as a recognised centre for construction and land use education. 'After 15 years of research growth we can claim a presence among the international research community and an increasing role in meeting the needs of industry,' Professor Baldwin said. But he added that the faculty faced two key challenges in the future. 'To further develop key areas of research in order to be truly world-class across a wider range of research areas, while developing a symbiotic relationship between academia and industry; and to join with academia to form consortiums and collectively fund long-term initiatives to bring innovative solutions to the changing construction industry.' Research at the faculty has resulted in groundbreaking developments in several high- profile projects. The FCLU began collaborating with Nasa in 1994 on air-quality monitoring and signed a 10-year agreement in 2005 with the space agency to establish an Aerosol Robotics Network station at the university. Staff have also been using advanced nanotechnology while working on indoor air quality control measures to protect the terracotta warriors in Xian in China. 'The figures are made of clay but they are in an area the size of a football field that is open,' Professor Baldwin said. 'There is a problem of air pollution eroding the clay figures, so we are advising on how to slow down the process.' Other key areas of research include acid rain in China, intelligent technologies for construction and virtual prototyping. 'Our teaching is research-led and we make sure the findings feed into the teaching. And, while it's mainly driven through the research side, we also work with the students to make sure they get exposure to modern ideas,' Professor Baldwin said This was done by pairing students with mentors, and the faculty maintaining close links with its alumni. 'One of the strengths of the faculty is the number of graduates that are in very senior positions in construction organisations or government organisations and have real links with the working world,' Professor Baldwin said. All courses at the FCLU were full, but he said the faculty faced pressure to maintain these numbers with top-quality applicants. 'We fill our programmes, but because of the downturn in the construction market in Hong Kong, we are finding it harder to find quality students. We have to work harder to get the same quality students as we had in the past.' But he said this drop in the number of students was the same worldwide when there was a downturn in construction.