Chatting about internationalization of higher education over a cup of tea

Grace Ho

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About 40 CityU academic and administrative staff joined members of senior management for a relaxing evening at CityU President Professor H K Chang's residence on 21 January, openly exchanging views pertaining to the internationalization of higher education in Hong Kong.


In the present era of globalization, internationalization has become increasingly important to institutions of higher education throughout the world.
The University Grants Committee (UGC) recently called for joint efforts among local institutions toward deepened and more effective internationalization. The UGC will set up a matching grant in support of joint strategic plans / promotional programmes that allow institutions to attract students worldwide. Therefore, enhancing CityU's internationalization process for the benefit of the University's students and of Hong Kong society at large was the theme of the evening.


Professor Chang started off the discussion by stating that the term "internationalization" is open to multiple interpretations. As far as Hong Kong is concerned, as the most cosmopolitan city in China and a longstanding bridge between the mainland and the world, future generations must be equipped with a vision sufficiently broad to enable them to link with the mainland on the one hand and reach out to the world on the other. To this end, Professor Chang has advocated trilateral partnerships between CityU and high-quality institutions beyond Hong Kong's borders.


Promoting cultural diversity 

Participating staff exchanged opinions and ideas on the importance of an internationalized education system, which could be promoted through closer collaboration with higher education institutions worldwide, quality programmes with unique components/strengths, diversified out-of-classroom and student development activities, and vigorous faculty and student recruitment or exchanges. Participants agreed that the University should beef up its efforts to attract more non-local students in order to augment the cultural diversity of the student body, and, at the same time, offer more opportunities for local students to study abroad.


It was suggested that the University conduct in-depth analyses to better understand what attracts foreign students to us. In the past, feedback from students from Europe and North America on campus has indicated that they appreciate opportunities to learn more about and to study in the Chinese mainland and in other Asian countries. That being the case, CityU can consider devising attractive programme (or curriculum) packages for promotion to partner institutions. The University should capitalize on the fact that foreign students who have enjoyed a valuable learning experience at CityU also contribute positively to the University’s image when they return to their home countries.


Staff members from various departments shared their experiences and observations with regard to non-local student admission. It was noted that while some local students mingle very well with foreign students, others seem less motivated, perhaps due to cultural or language barriers. A number of potential methods were proposed to improve the campus ambiance and help local students become more motivated and mix comfortably with people from different countries. Suggestions included making use of the student residences to foster inter-cultural exchanges and encouraging the learning of foreign languages among students, accelerating non-local student recruitment efforts, and devising specific strategic policies and plans to advance the University's internationalization. A Committee on Internationalization Strategy will soon be established to look into this whole issue.


To conclude the discussion, Professor Chang reiterated that, given Hong Kong’s unique geographical location, CityU's need to foster mutually beneficial relationships with tertiary institutions on the mainland and in other countries is of equal importance. The efforts to "internationalize" our student body will be matched by those in recruiting more students from the mainland.


Dubbed “A dialogue with the President”, the 21 January gathering was one in an ongoing series of informal meetings to further open communication among staff members and senior management about the University’s development.





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