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PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 6:32pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 January, 2014, 10:42am

It was not so long ago that the first personal computers appeared, we started using the internet and cameras went digital. The breakneck speed of technological development in the past 20 years has changed the landscape of how we work and promote our businesses.

Studying for an undergraduate degree at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has also changed - upped from three to four years in line with undergraduate programmes across Hong Kong.

"By enabling students to create new knowledge and to communicate, curate and cultivate that knowledge, students will be better prepared to adapt to the many changes that will occur over the course of their careers," says Professor Arthur Ellis, CityU provost and one of the architects of the school's discovery-enriched curriculum (DEC). "In short, our objectives are to offer all our students a world-class professional education attuned to the rapid pace of technology and globalisation."

In the first year, students will be exposed to cutting-edge interdisciplinary ideas through gateway education (GE) courses, as well as first-year core courses designed by the college or school they are enrolled in.

However, students do not directly enter a major, as previously, but choose one at the end of their first year, at the earliest.

The GE courses comprise 30 credits, or a quarter of the curriculum, giving students a broad interdisciplinary knowledge base. They must take at least one GE course in the three distributional areas: art and humanities, science and technology, and studies of societies, social and business organisations.

"The DEC, with its slogan of 'Discover&[email protected]', is designed to motivate and ignite a passion for knowledge and discovery in students, prepare them to practice professionally at - and beyond - international standards, and promote a culture of knowledge and innovation," Ellis says.

Re-designing the curriculum rather than tacking on an extra year has also allowed the university to extend a host of co-curricular activities. CityU is also expanding opportunities for international experience.

"The university is also keenly aware of the need to enhance language proficiency and the cognitive skills of our students," says Professor Gary Feng, CityU associate provost and an architect of the new curriculum.

The revamped academic programme has set 120 and 144 credit units as the minimum and maximum for graduation. The 30 units for GE studies aside, the major field of study consists of 45 units that can be gained through a second major, a minor and elective courses. CityU hopes its graduates will take on leadership roles. "We expect our graduates to become versatile professionals and community leaders," says Ellis.

Redesigning the new curriculum began in 2005 with an initial proposal to the University Grants Committee. The university then developed a framework for the four-year curriculum, including initiatives to add value to the learning experience.

A working group formulated the description of the education that undergraduates should receive, and an action team was formed - with representatives from all colleges and schools - to develop an operational framework and curriculum structure. Feedback was received during a university-organised retreat and through consultation with staff and students.