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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.

[The University of Macau] — A Chinese-language essay in a recent edition of the Macao Daily News recommends a residential college system for the new Hengqin campus of the University of Macau.

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.

    大學的校園生活—住宿式書院制度

    澳門大學在橫琴建新校園一事,最近在社會上引起很大的關注。澳大如果在橫琴的土地上運作,是否還能保持他原有的敎學宗旨、理念、制度和特色,在橫琴校園如何執行法律、怎樣實施保安,以及進出校園是否方便,都是大家最關心的。這些問題,必須通過理性討論和硏究,才能找出比較滿意的答案。在這些熱烈的討論中,奇怪的是較少人去探討為甚麼澳門大學需要大規模地擴建校園。我就聽過一個學生說,將現在的敎學樓都拆了,重建為二、三十層的高樓,不就解決問題了嗎?但他說電梯一定要多、要快,還要為學生提供車位,因為下課後趕去兼職不能遲到。對這位同學來說,大學是他來學習專業技能及獲得學位證書的地方。他可能從來不覺得要住在學校宿舍和在校園內生活。在澳門,家是那麼近,家居條件一般也不太差吧,回去陪家人又有父母照顧一切,不是挺好嗎?

    我們要為澳門培養甚麼人才?

    看來他也不無道理。但且想一想我們的高等敎育到底要培養怎樣的人才。我的工商界及傳媒的朋友閒話時,就曾慨歎怎麼現在有些大學畢業生的知識面那麼窄。除了自己專業之外,其他都好像不大懂。中英文水平每況愈下,表達和溝通能力都差強人意,對世界及社會大事好像是漠不關心,無甚主見,甚或人云亦云。與人相處也常常以自我為中心,容不下不同的觀念和文化。簡單地說,這都是忽視全人敎育的惡果。我們這些大學畢業生,其實並沒有認眞過好四年的大學生活,匆匆數載僅在課堂和實驗室的學習並沒有讓他們全面成長、開闊他們的眼界和胸襟,以及培養出他們獨立思考、批判及解決問題的能力。我自己也有子女快要進入大學,作為家長,我也實在擔心。大學四年正是靑年成長的關鍵時期,澳門的高等敎育能不能幫助我的子女樹立正確的道德和價値觀、學會與人相處溝通的技巧、明白包容和尊重不同文化的道理,甚至提高對文化藝術的欣賞品味,從而活出充實和多彩的人生?澳門的大學,將來可以為我們培養出怎樣的人才?

    校園生活是大學生成長的要素

    很難想像,我跟那位趕往兼職的學生說說大道理,他就心甘情願地給你關在一個條件很差的校園,接受所謂全人敎育。現在澳門所有大學,都沒有條件吸引大部分的本地學生在課餘時間留在校園蹓躂,更不用說住在學校宿舍了。當然單靠好的環境和設施,去吸引學生留在校園,也並不能達到全人敎育的目的。我們還需要一個好的學生生活輔導制度來配合——這就是我想介紹的“住宿式書院制度”。我們知道,學院以專業劃分,同一專業的學生都常聚在一起。這樣他們接觸到的,就多是同樣專業背景、想法相近的人,畢業後也就多是這個社交圈子。在北美及歐洲的一些優秀大學,以至香港的中文大學,在學院之外,設立了書院制度,刻意打破學生的專業分類而讓他們到校園內各個書院住宿生活。書院也不單是硬梆梆的宿舍樓房,而是一個數百人左右的院落和大家庭,書院的院長及部分老師都與學生一同住在書院內。外地學生、交換學生都被適當地分配到各個書院生活,以創造多元文化的環境。每個書院除了住房外,都有自己的書室、導修課室、康體集會場地、食堂等。書院院長及學生組織會舉辦各式的活動,例如通識敎育的導修課、周會、名人講座、音樂會、電影欣賞、歌唱比賽、體育競賽等。共同進膳是書院其中一項重要活動,有些書院還會強制或鼓勵(例如有若干次免費)學生在書院的飯堂用膳,以接觸不同年級和專業的師生。

    以書院生活扶助學生成長

    每個書院都可能有獨特的個性,可以想像,某書院較關心時事,熱衷於辯論,常產生辯論隊主將;某書院活躍好動,體育明星輩出;某書院有較濃哲學氣氛,愛好探討人生哲理;某書院胸懷天下,常推動同學關心世界及國家大事;也有些書院並沒有顯著特徵,在平凡中重視個人自由發展。總之,多彩多姿的校園生活,只有一個目的,就是為了扶助學生的全人發展。學生通過與同輩及老師之間在校園裏的生活互動,磨練他們的道德、意志和獨立思考能力,開拓他們的世界視野,培養他們與人相處之道和擴闊他們包容不同思想文化的胸襟。在書院的同學們不但在學問上互相切磋琢磨,更在成長路途上砥礪扶持。到畢業的時候,他們已擁有一定的生活體驗和歷練,更難得的是帶着數百個親密同窗的人際關係步出書院和校園。這些都是他們日後人生道路上的珍貴資產。

    如果學校能提供這樣的校園生活素質,相信我那趕乘電梯的年靑朋友再也不會為微薄的兼職收入,而放棄他大學黃金四年的生活吧。再者,有此條件,大學也可以振振有詞地要求學生住在校園了。這樣我也就放心讓我的子女在澳大接受全人敎育的栽培,將來愉快地為澳門服務。

    把握百年難得的機會

    書院制度雖然理想,但也要有相應的資源配合,對土地的要求便最明顯。在澳門這人口稠密的小城,恐怕眞的難以實行。現在有機會能在橫琴找到寬敞的空間,可眞是百載難逢的機會!把握這契機,將澳門大學的新校園妥善地規劃利用,將為澳門的高等敎育開創新的局面,造福子孫下代。要是在橫琴的大學校園是由澳門管理,行使澳門法律,又不用通過邊檢,一切制度也不變,但是校園卻擴大了,能實踐全人敎育了,我實在找不到反對的理由。有老師和學生說路途太遠了不方便,但實際上橫琴與路氹只隔二百多米的水道,一橋飛渡,大概只要兩分鐘車程。“總之澳大在橫琴就不是澳大”,這說法也未免太感性和武斷了吧。要是我們基於非理性的原因,甚至一己利益而白白放棄這個機會,可能再難有下一次了。澳門市民眞的要為下一代好好地想一想。

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 System

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.

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