The University of Hong Kong’s vice chancellor and president defended a controversial new policy announced last week making it mandatory for undergrad students to travel to the mainland as part of their degree.
The announcement sparked outrage from the student body, specifically when pro-vice-chancellor Professor Ian Holliday told a group of students rather bluntly that “If you don’t want to go to mainland China, don’t come to HKU.”
Holliday on Monday formally retracted the statement, saying that his wording was “clumsy and misleading” and that he’d meant “to say something much more positive.”
HKU vice chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson has now elaborated on that sentiment, and in an interview with SCMP denied claims that the policy is a result of pressure from the University Grants Committee.
“This is a matter of internal policy development and nothing to do with UGC requirements, although we have incorporated details in our recent academic development plan, which we have submitted to UGC,” Mathieson said.
“We confidently believe that such opportunities will enhance the ‘whole person development’ which we aim to provide for all HKU students,” he said, adding that trips to mainland China and beyond would give students the opportunity to spend “meaningful amounts of time outside Hong Kong”.
The plan would involve mandatory immersion programs in mainland China and overseas and would be implemented by 2022. Critics have raised concern, however, that the trips were being planned for political reasons.
Chinese University and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology both said they were planning similar compulsory study abroad programs.