Hong Kong's university students are generally perceived as academically gifted, but they fare less well when it comes to being worldly-wise. Off-campus surveys have shown they are thought of as being poor communicators, lack an understanding of what is around them and do not have good problem-solving skills. The introduction of a new education system in which tertiary undergraduate degrees will be extended from three to four years in 2012 offers a chance to broaden horizons. University of Hong Kong officials are taking the right step by introducing compulsory internships. Three of the university's faculties have already adopted the idea. Under the banner of 'experience learning', though, it will be extended campus-wide to encompass all manner of interaction with the community of Hong Kong and beyond. Traditional internships such as a student studying law working with a legal firm will still earn credits towards a degree, but so, too, will a student selling fish in a wet market. There is nothing revolutionary about the approach, although given the benefits it clearly should be embraced by all our universities. Getting a job after graduation is a daunting experience for most students. Gaining a good one is difficult. Employers prefer people with experience - which obviously can only be gained through having had a job. Internships are valuable for employers and students in developing contacts. But the university's requirement also taps into the wider ideal of all communities: that places of higher learning should do more than mechanically turn out people with the technical knowledge and skills to do a specific job. Universities should be firmly engaged in the present and future of our city. Their graduates should be equipped to contribute to the social and cultural fabric of the community. Degree-holders should be able to lead, participate and offer opinions. Our universities have for too long being seen as distant from city life. The two have to interact more closely. Making students a part of the community for some of their course will help to rectify this shortcoming. On graduation, they and Hong Kong will be better served.