Residential Colleges for the University of Macau?
Update · 9 June 2009: Debbie Jin Sun, a student at Currie Hall, one of the residential colleges of the University of Western Australia, has generously prepared an English translation of the Chinese-language essay below; I have appended it to the original posting. Many thanks also to Christopher Massey, the principal of Currie Hall, for passing the translation along.
Unfortunately I’m not able to read the Chinese original, and Google’s automated translation can only get us so far. Is there a Collegiate Way reader who could provide a good English version for us?
Very loosely paraphrasing from the automated translation:
Many students at the University of Macau come from the local area and so don’t spend time on campus outside of class. To encourage holistic education, good facilities are of course needed, but student life must also be supported. To that end, “I would like to introduce the ‘residential college-style system.’”
Students in the professional schools at Macau associate with other professional-school students—like with like—and don’t interact with students who have other interests and backgrounds. At many universities in North America and Europe, and at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, residential college systems deliberately mix students together and permit them to live on campus during their entire term of study.
Residential colleges of this kind are not just hostels, but family-like groups of a few hundred members, arranged around a quad, with the college president as well as some faculty fellows living on the college grounds near the students. Social events, multi-cultural activities, academic support, and common dining all bring the members of the residential college together and help them grow.
Each college develops its own personality and becomes a lively place of debate about life, current affairs, world events, and individual freedom. The full development of students is always the goal: helping them to think independently, develop a vision for the world, and relate successfully with other people from many different backgrounds. The network of friendships they develop in their residential college carries over into later life as well.
Macau and Hong Kong face one another on opposite sides of the mouth of the Pearl River, so it wouldn’t be surprising if university educators in Macau had an eye on their neighbors across the bay. The Chinese University of Hong Kong has emerged as a leading proponent of the residential college model in Asia. It’s very encouraging to see that their Macanese colleagues may soon be following in their footsteps.
For reference, the full Chinese text of the editorial appears below.
Update · 9 June 2009: The following English translation of the Chinese-language editorial above has been generously prepared by Debbie Jin Sun, a student at Currie Hall, one of the residential colleges of the University of Western Australia.
Living on Campus — The Residential College SystemBy Si Qi [English translation by Debbie Jin Sun, Currie Hall, UWA]
Great attention has been given to the matter that the University of Macau is going to build a new campus in Hengqin. If the University of Macau operates on the land of Hengqin, whether it can maintain its original teaching principles, vision and mission, system and features, how to administer the law, how to ensure (campus) safety, and whether it will be convenient to travel to the campus are all the questions that people are concerned about. To find satisfactory answers to these questions, reasonable discussion and research need to be carried out. However, in the hot public debate, rarely are there people that ask why the university has to extend the campus on such a large scale. I had heard from a student who said that problems would have been easy to solve if we just tore down the old buildings and reconstructed them into a twenty- or thirty-story high rise building on the former address. Nevertheless he said team lifts (elevators) should be built and the lifts must be very quick. Furthermore, adequate parking must be provided so that students can rush for their part-time work after class without being late. It seems to this student that the university is only a place to study professional skills and get qualifications. He has not ever thought of living in the residential dormitory and living on campus. True, in Macau (students’) homes are so close and the housing conditions are not too bad; isn’t it very comfortable if you are living at home and being taken care of by parents?
What kinds of talents are we cultivating for Macau?
Clearly that student has a point; but let’s see about what talents in the end should be cultivated through our tertiary education. My business friends and friends in the media industry lament that nowadays the knowledge scope of some university graduates is too narrow: besides their own major area they don’t know much else—Chinese and English language skills go from bad to worse, communication and interpersonal abilities are just passable, being cold and indifferent towards world and society events, always chiming in with the herd but not with minds of their own, being self-centered when socialising with people and not tolerating different opinions and cultures. In one word, this is the evil consequence of ignoring Comprehensive Education [i.e., General Education or Liberal Education in U.S. usage —RJO]. Our university graduates actually didn’t take seriously their four-year university time. A few years’ classroom study and lab research failed to give them an integrated development, a broadened outlook and an open mind, or the abilities of independent thinking, criticizing and problem solving. I, myself, also have children that are going to university. As a parent, I am very worried. The four-year university time is a critical period for the growth of the youth. I wonder whether the tertiary education in Macau can help my children to establish a correct moral principle and value orientation, to learn tact and skill in dealing with people, to see sense about comprehending and respecting different cultures, and even upgrade their level of artistic appreciation so that they can lead an enriched and colourful life. What kinds of talents can be grown in the future by the universities in Macau?
Campus life is essential to the development of university students
It is hard to imagine that the student who would rush to part-time work after class would ever willingly stay on a less privileged campus and accept so-called Comprehensive Education just because I am bringing out the facts and reasons for him. Nowadays in Macau, most universities are even not able to attract most local students to take a walk and go sight-seeing on campus during their spare time.
Of course Comprehensive Education cannot be implemented only by using the finest surroundings and infrastructure to attract students to stay on campus. We also need a good residential guidance system connected to it—this is ‘the residential college system’ that I would like to introduce. As it is known to all, schools [i.e., departments or faculties —RJO] in a university are divided according to different specializing areas so that students with the same major usually mix together. Therefore, the people they socialise with share the same academic background and similar mindsets. And the social circle will be the same after they graduate from university. However, some first-class universities in North America and Europe and even the Chinese University of Hong Kong have their residential college system in addition to the academic departments, which intentionally break the social circle from same-major groups and let students live in a residential college that mixes people together. A residential college is not a simple and crude student dormitory but a big community and family where the Principal of the college and some teachers also live there. Non-local students and exchange students are all accordingly arranged to live in various residential colleges in order to create a multi-cultural environment. Besides dormitory bedrooms, every residential college has its own reading room, tutorial classroom, entertainment and sport court, dining hall and the like. Principals and student clubs would organise all kinds of activities, such as liberal education tutorials, weekly meetings, guest presentations, concerts, movie nights, singing competitions, sports competitions and so on. It is a very important activity to have meals together in the residential college. Some residential colleges would compel or encourage students (e.g., by offering free meals for a few times) to eat in the dinning hall to make contact with people who come from different grades and major backgrounds.
Assist students’ development with residential colleges
Every residential college would have its own characteristics. It can be imagined that there would be some residential colleges that keep up with current affairs, enthusiastic in debate and always having debates coming up; some residential colleges would be good at organising sports activities and ‘sport stars’ would come forth; some college might have a strong philosophical spirit and people there might enjoy discussions on philosophy of life; some colleges would have an open mind and encourage students to be concerned about world and national affairs; and some other colleges might not have specific features but focus on the development of the individual’s freedom of expression in a relaxed environment. [I’m not sure from this description whether the author has thematic colleges in mind, or whether he is just describing the spontaneous emergence of interest groups which may change from year to year. I don’t recommend the thematic college model, and favor the cross-sectional model instead. Cross-sectional residential colleges in a residential college system do of course develop their own distinctive features, just as every family in a neighborhood does; some of these features persist from year to year, while others come and go as student interests change. —RJO] In brief, the purpose of having a colourful campus life is to assist the comprehensive development of the students. Through interactions with peers and teachers, students get the chance to sharpen their moral values, strengthen their convictions and their ability of independent thinking, widen their vision in viewing the world, foster their interpersonal skills and broaden the mind with regard to different and diversified cultures. Buddies in residential colleges not only help each other with academic issues, but also they assist each other in personal development. By the time they graduate, they have already had some lived experience and tempering. And the most important thing is that they will leave the residential colleges and the university with a network of friendship of hundreds of close schoolmates. These are all valuable resource for their future life.
If the university can provide such quality campus life, I believe that the young friend who would take a life and rush to the part-time work would never idle away the precious four-year university time only for earning a slender income. Moreover, having these quality campus living conditions, the university will be able to give chapter and verse to ask students to live on campus; and I can relievedly send my children to have a Comprehensive Education at the University of Macau. Therefore in the future, they can serve Macau society better.
Seize the rare golden opportunity
Though it is ideal to have the residential college system, it needs the pertinent resources, and it especially needs land. In Macau, which is such a densely populated small city, it might be really hard to implement (the residential college system). However, now it has become a golden rare chance to have the campus on the Hengqin land where it provides an ample range. To seize the opportunity and make full use of the new campus of the University of Macau will create a new situation of tertiary education in Macau, which will bring benefits to our posterity. I can see no reason to disapprove such a new campus plan under which the university is still administrated by Macau, still implements the law system of Macau, making no changes to their original principles but only extending its campus land. Some teachers and students complain that it will be too far to travel to the new campus. Yet actually it is only a two hundred-meter waterway from Lutai to Hengqin, which through the Macau-Taipa Bridge is only a two-minute drive. The comment which says ‘it will not be the University of Macau if the campus is built in Hengqin’ might be too arbitrary and philosophical. If we let such a good opportunity slip only on the grounds of some irrational reasons or even from individual interests, the opportunity will be gone forever. The time is approaching that Macau citizens must think responsibly for future generations.