Open University’s new initiative to meet needs of ageing population
Hong Kong’s continuously ageing population signifies the need for more healthcare personnel at all levels. To enable swift response to unforeseen community needs that arise as our society ages, the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) is building a new campus for integrated nursing and healthcare education this year.
As a key project and milestone of the University when it heads towards its 30th anniversary in two years’ time, this new campus will cater to tomorrow’s needs for nursing and healthcare manpower training, while offering better healthcare support and education to local communities. Ultimately, it aims to raise public awareness regarding the need for better healthcare services in Hong Kong.
From “education for all” to “caring for all”
“As of 2016, we have 3,300 nursing students, and our nursing school produces almost 800 graduates every year, who go on to serve in over 50 local hospitals and organisations,” says Professor Yuk-Shan Wong, OUHK President. “This, however, is far from enough as the ageing population poses significant healthcare challenges for our future. We have to create more learning space and embark on new initiatives to groom new talents for the healthcare sector.”
Wong explains that healthcare involves both curing and caring. While medical breakthroughs and advances help fight a broad range of illnesses, there is a growing requirement for professional carers in Hong Kong, which can hardly be fulfilled by the current supply of nursing personnel.
As a pioneer in healthcare education, which started running nursing courses 23 years ago, OUHK sees an immediate need to increase the momentum of professional healthcare training in Hong Kong to ensure everyone in need receives sufficient care.
Wong recalls the old days when the OUHK was established by the Government in 1989, there were only two universities in Hong Kong and only two per cent of secondary school leavers received a higher education degree. OUHK catered for the remaining 98 per cent by offering distance education for working adults, making higher education available to all through open and flexible learning.
Today, it has become the largest self-financing university in Hong Kong with 9,500 full-time students and more than 10,000 part-time students, offering the widest range of professional and pragmatic education programmes.
Rise of a new nursing and healthcare community
The new campus will be situated at a site on Sheung Shing Street, opposite OUHK’s main campus in Ho Man Tin. After its completion in 2020, with a gross floor area of about 18,680 square metres, it will extend the average learning space per student from 7 square metres to 10 square metres, which is still relatively small compared to the average 17 square metres enjoyed by students at government subsidized universities.
By housing all healthcare related efforts under one roof, it is expected that synergies across all programmes and projects could be achieved. In addition to the current nursing training, programmes for sports management, dietetics, psychology, early childhood education and special educational needs, and other paramedical programmes, are being lined up to meet the growing demands for a diversifying range of healthcare professionals.
Apart from lecture halls and tutorial rooms, various innovative facilities will be available in the new building. These include specialty education units, cutting-edge laboratories, student service and leisure facilities and more spacious learning common rooms. Advanced 3D technologies and virtual reality will also be applied to facilitate teaching and learning. The new facilities will be enjoyed by all OUHK students to encourage active learning and exchange of ideas.
Environmental thinking is well integrated into the design of the building to promote eco-friendliness among students. “The building will be modelled after a green environment to match the greenery of the adjacent public leisure park, in an effort to integrate nature into the daily lives of the staff and students,” says Wong. “There will be a public podium and landscaped terraces and roof garden, and over 20 per cent of the site will be covered with greenery.”
Apart from serving as an education facility, the building will become a hub to connect and support society, helping to develop Hong Kong into a healthier city by reducing community reliance on hospital care through active promotion of community healthcare. According to Wong, other universities and NGOs are welcome to organise joint activities with the OUHK at the building to foster growth and promote transfer of knowledge for the healthcare sector.
A new place to learn and a new way to care
OUHK plans to break ground this autumn on the construction of the new building. The total project development cost is estimated to be HK$850 million. The good news is the University has already secured a donation from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust (HKJCCT), and is awaiting the approval of an interest-free loan from the Government. The building will be named as the “Jockey Club Institute of Healthcare” to acknowledge the generous support from the HKJCCT.
However, the University still has to rely on donations from the community for the remaining 20 per cent of development costs. Thanks to the Government’s seventh Matching Grant Scheme, where donations received will be matched by the Government on a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio, OUHK will benefit from additional income to pay for its development.
“Timely donations are vital for the success of this project, as we need to compete for the grant with other self-financed institutions. I cordially invite all those who share the same education mission with the OUHK to lend a hand in propelling Hong Kong’s healthcare sector to a new level of excellence. By making the right investment in healthcare manpower training, you will help to ensure that Hong Kong’s young and elderly alike will receive quality healthcare services in the future,” says Wong, who believes that the seeds we sow today will grow to serve as shades for all travellers tomorrow.