Hong Kong universities help create jobs for students amid double whammy of protests and pandemic


Short-term jobs at the university would also be offered to graduating students, while discussions are ongoing with various organisations to create external employment opportunities.

Tuan said he and seven pro-vice-chancellors would donate 15 per cent of their salaries for the remaining months of this year to seed the relief fund, with further donations expected from alumni.

The varsity’s last annual yearbook mentions Tuan’s yearly salary as HK$6 million.

Chinese University vice-chancellor Rocky Tuan hopes the fund will enhance students’ employment outlook during the current tough times. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Since the protests erupted in June last year, various universities, especially Chinese University in Ma On Shan and Polytechnic University in Hung Hom, have become battlefields between protesters and police.

This year, the coronavirus pandemic has postponed the dates of the resumption of face-to-face classes.

Tuan admitted that raising money was a challenging task.

“We did experience some hardships in raising funds,” he said. But he explained that the numbers were a bit tricky under the government’s matching grants scheme, in which grants worth HK$3 billion were earmarked for eight universities for three years from August last year.

He said some universities had used the donations to receive matching grants from the government, resulting in the hard numbers going up by almost 2½ times from the previous year.

Chin said he was surprised to see an increase in donations last year.

Tuan said more than 3 million online classes had been held for students since the beginning of the pandemic, with about 2,500 sessions being held online every day.

“It [the pandemic] hit us really hard, sudden, fast and furious, and I think my colleagues basically taught themselves how to face it,” he said.

Professor Roland Chin, vice-chancellor of Baptist University, says the pandemic and the US-China trade war have forced the higher education sector to rethink its digital and internationalisation strategy. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

Professor Roland Chin, vice-chancellor of Baptist University, says the pandemic and the US-China trade war have forced the higher education sector to rethink its digital and internationalisation strategy. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

As the pandemic has brought the university’s exchange programmes to a halt, Tuan said they had decided to initiate “very attractive and rewarding” virtual exchange programmes by partnering with overseas universities. The virtual exchange programmes are likely to be announced in a month or so.

Chin also said the pandemic and the US-China trade war had forced the higher education sector to rethink its digital and internationalisation strategy.

“China is withdrawing from a lot of joint programmes with the West … should we focus more on the Asean countries, the African continent, or South America? We need to do this post-pandemic rethinking,” Chin said.

Chinese University has spent HK$45 million to restore facilities that had been damaged during protests in November last year, while Baptist University spent HK$2 million.

However, both Tuan and Chin said the most difficult part was to rebuild mutual trust among everyone.

“Ultimately, the lesson to be learned from all the unrest is that we must [build trust] very seriously and must do it in solidarity, with commitment, and with openness,” Tuan said.

Meanwhile, Carlson Tong Ka-shing, chairman of the University Grants Committee, speaking in a separate interview with the media, said there was scope for the universities to apply for funding for long-term repairs.

But he said that the universities had been able to repair their campuses with their own resources.

Additional reporting by Chan Ho-him

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