The launch of the four-year undergraduate courses next year will not only herald a new era in education at the city's oldest university, it will also coincide with the completion of a major expansion project to mark its 100-year history.
The University of Hong Kong (HKU) is currently ranked number one in Asia, by both the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the QS World University Rankings. Centennial Campus, adjacent to HKU's main campus to the west, promises to offer a learning environment that is truly fit for a world-class university in the 21st century. Major features of the facility - whose construction is in full swing - will include a learning commons, university piazza, flexible classrooms, information and communications technology facilities, lecture theatres and state-of-the-art amenities, as well as a new entrance for HKU linked to the MTR's West Island Line.
The extra space and additional facilities will help smooth the way for the new learning structure. There's a rising intake of undergraduate and post-graduate students from mainland China and around the world and the university is expecting an additional 3,000 students by 2012.
Under the four-year undergraduate courses, students at HKU will have to obtain a minimum of 240 credits. These will include compulsory elements in English and Chinese, as well as six common core courses in areas including Scientific and Technological Literacy, Humanities, Global Issues, and China: Culture, State and Society.
"The common core courses do not only broaden students' knowledge but develop their analytical skills and active learning by discussing and reflecting on common issues in society," says Professor Amy Tsui, pro-vice-chancellor for teaching and learning.
Students must also do major and minor specialisations, electives, as well as capstone courses in the senior years that focus on the integration and application of knowledge and skills that students have acquired.
Overall, Tsui expects the new educational blueprint for undergraduates to deliver a host of benefits. The enabling curriculum structure will also take a more student-centred approach, giving them greater flexibility to choose their majors and electives, depending on their academic and personal interests.
There will also be experiential learning courses for the development of knowledge and to challenge students' skills through direct encounters with ill-defined problems and phenomena.
"Students will learn to question and reflect on their tasks through internships, international exchange, research projects," Tsui says, adding that these experiential courses will be a graduation requirement from school year 2012-2013, as will the capstone courses.
Preparations for the new four-year undergraduate curriculum began in 2006 - around the same time planning for the Centennial Campus was gathering pace. It was a comprehensive process involving the entire academic community, says Tsui.
One of the fruits of this labour was a plan to initiate an eLearning Strategy. A centrally supported learning management system was also decided upon and will be put in place for HKU students.