A network of leading universities around the world, which goes by the name of U21, is dedicated to making higher education more international through e-learning initiatives and collaboration on research projects. As a member of that group, The University of Hong Kong (HKU) is proud to have established an International Centre designed to let students learn about and interact with people from many other cultures.
Professor John Spinks, senior advisor to the vice-chancellor of HKU points out that the new centre is for all students. "Our aim is to make the university known for having a global outlook which will attract overseas students, while giving local students broader exposure to other cultures," he says. "We have developed an excellent collaboration with the consulates in Hong Kong, who have donated books and other material, which will be made available as a resource for students' reference."
The centre has also been designed as a place where people can get together. In the communal areas, televisions are tuned to international channels broadcasting, for example, in German, French, Japanese and Korean. There is also a free gymnasium with state-of-the-art facilities, a comfortable cafeteria serving snacks and health drinks, and an al fresco dining area, which is a rarity in Hong Kong.
For overseas students, there is information and assistance to help them adjust to life in unfamiliar surroundings. This extends to details about obtaining visas and how to go about getting an internship in Hong Kong or mainland China. As part of an initial orientation programme, overseas students are paired with "buddies" who show them around the city and help with settling in. Numerous activities are arranged to encourage participation in campus life and, later on, when course credits have been earned, HKU helps to notify home universities.
"We hope, though, that just as many local students will make use of the centre and get to know our relatively large population of overseas students, as well as to understand their respective cultures more deeply," Professor Spinks says.
HKU's teaching and research programmes rely increasingly on having close ties with other leading international universities. This makes it possible to organise higher-level research activities around global issues, such as the need for better water quality control and the spread of infectious diseases. Online collaboration allows students at partner universities around the world to contribute their views and ideas.
"The university is already enhancing international contacts with a range of programmes, internships, competitions and overseas tours," says Professor Spinks. "Joint research and staff exchanges will also help Hong Kong's academic community. Our benchmark is to be one of the world's leading universities, so we will continue to develop our international links."
He adds that all students will have the chance to benefit from involvement with the centre and that their future careers will undoubtedly be helped by having a global perspective. This naturally develops from the ability to understand, communicate and work well with people from different cultures. According to one survey of multinational companies, "global competence" is an important quality they look for in candidates. Students who possess it therefore give themselves a much better chance of landing a coveted role with one of the top international organisations or multinational companies.