The professional training and applied research are tailored to meet Hong Kong's needs in talent, skills and technology THE MOTTO, 'TO LEARN and apply for the benefit of mankind', has guided The Hong Kong Polytechnic University over the past 70 years and defined the institution's evolution and spirit of endeavour. Starting off in 1937 as the Government Trade School, the institution developed into Hong Kong Technical College and then Hong Kong Polytechnic in 1947 and 1972 respectively, before being renamed a university in 1994. Each stage has called for different priorities, but all have been geared to meet specific social and economic needs as Hong Kong progressed from its industry-based days to a secondary manufacturing economy and today's knowledge-based, service-orientated economy. University president Poon Chung-kwong said the emphasis on professional training and applied research had helped the institution meet Hong Kong's increasingly sophisticated demands for talent, skills and technology. 'The Polytechnic University has always championed a dual emphasis on theory and application,' Professor Poon said. 'We train our students to be hands-on professionals with a good all round background, and we work positively to put our research into practice. Our goal is to cater to the practical needs of business and industry, promote Hong Kong's development and competitiveness, and contribute to China's modernisation.' Professor Poon said he believed that Hong Kong universities served the territory by performing varying individual functions. 'It is our belief that Hong Kong's universities should play different roles using an approach they feel is best for them,' he said. 'This way they can complement each other to generate diverse benefits. When we were renamed a university, we made a sensible decision to maintain our traditional orientation towards application, to go hand in hand with theoretical training. Thanks to this, we have matured quickly into the dynamic university we are today.' The university has pioneered many areas of study in response to Hong Kong's topical needs. These include textile and clothing, hotel and tourism management, optometry, physiotherapy and medical laboratory science, for which the university has earned acclaim at home and overseas. The university is also recognised for its strengths in engineering, applied chemical technology, accounting and logistics, while reflecting Hong Kong's economic transformation in a dynamic finance-related curriculum. 'We continue to receive national and international commendations for our achievements in education and applied research,' Professor Poon said. 'The University Grants Committee has also commended us for delivering quality application-orientated education.' In 2012, undergraduate university education will switch to a four-year structure across the territory. Professor Poon said there was a working group dedicated to preparing for the switch-over. Meanwhile, the university would continue to give students exposure outside the campus, Professor Poon said. The 'preferred' graduate internship placement programme, for example, gave students practical work experience, and the student exchange programme linked up with some 150 overseas institutions to give students international perspectives. 'Both the government and private employers have said repeatedly that our young people must have broad exposure and international perspectives to cope with globalisation. These are just what the preferred graduate and student exchange programmes address,' Professor Poon said. 'I am pleased to say that in a number of private surveys our graduates have been rated as being most popular with employers by virtue of their high practical value and professionalism.' PolyU pursues internationalisation within and outside the campus, especially in the mainland where there is strong demand for Hong Kong tertiary education. It started to offer programmes there in 1998, and now provides 17 programmes approved by the state authorities. 'Our programmes are very popular with mainland students because of our emphasis on practical application,' Professor Poon said. 'We have the largest number of state-approved programmes compared to the other Hong Kong universities. 'The state has a clear goal to promote China's prosperity through scientific research and education. We will continue to beef up our contribution on these fronts by helping to train up mainland talent and transferring the fruit of our research.' Professor Poon said the university would be participating in more mainland projects, following its involvement in the state's space programme (developing clothes for ground staff) and its recent appointment as a partner in providing nursing and sports science support for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Also important, the professor said, was the university's long-standing involvement with Hong Kong's business and industry community. The university's Institute for Enterprise plays an active role in meeting the practical needs of private enterprises through research and professional services in different fields. Professor Poon said there was strong synergy, and industry and business were leveraging on the university's applied research. PolyU has set up specialised facilities, including Hong Kong's first research and development centre for textile and clothing, opened last year, and a new teaching hotel for its school of hotel and tourism management, which comes on stream in the 2008/09 academic year. Having presided over the university's rapid development over the past 16 years, Professor Poon plans to step down as president at the end of next year, on completing his contract. 'We have trained almost 250,000 graduates to service different sectors over the years. It can be said that our history closely reflects Hong Kong's development over the last few decades,' he said. 'Hong Kong's future is tied closely to that of China. We need talent that can come up with and apply innovations. They must be all-rounders with international perspectives, leadership and communication skills, creativity, critical thinking, a sense of responsibility and positive values. It will continue to be the university's challenge and priority to train up such talent.'