Interview: Dr Simon S. L. Xu, Associate Vice President (Global Affairs)
What does globalisation mean to you?
Dr Xu: Globalisation should be grounded in cross-cultural fertilisation and mutual learning rather than conformity and convergence to a singular set of “universal” benchmarks. It should not imply the loss of the local identity, but instead be capable of nurturing a culture for appreciating diversity, plurality, tolerance and respect.
Multiculturalism is one of the key focus and components of the EdUHK's internationalisation strategy and is advocated both inside and outside campus.
How important is global awareness for our students?
Dr Xu: As one of the Core Values spelt out in the EdUHK's Strategic Plan 2016-2015, global awareness is emphasised in students' learning experience under the formal and non-formal learning frameworks.
"Global perspectives", together with other Generic Intended Learning Outcomes (GILOs) of the EdUHK's undergraduate programmes, contributes to enable our students to understand and negotiate the competing orientations that are part of their own life experience and their ongoing personal and social development.
How do you incorporate global awareness into the work of the Global Affairs Office?
Dr Xu: The Missions of GAO adhere to the University's vision to raise its profile and impact locally, regionally and internationally, namely, to:
· Foster close collaboration with the universities and institutions worldwide;
· Raise the EdUHK’s profile globally and establish regional leadership;
· Enhance students’ regional and international learning experience; and
· Promote internationalisation at home through recruitment of non-local students and on-campus student integration activities.
How would you judge EdUHK students' global awareness when they first come here?
Dr Xu: Some students may have limited non-local learning experience and are accustomed to the local environment and viewpoints when joining the University.
When releasing its "Strategic Plan 2009-2012 and beyond" in June 2009, the University already set down a visionary initiative aiming at facilitating every full-time undergraduate student the opportunity to undertake at least one non-local experience during his/her course of study.
Do you see evidence of changes in global awareness over time? If so, can you give examples? How influential are GAO activities in facilitating these changes?
Dr Xu: More students have been seizing the opportunities to enrich their non-local experience.
In 2011/12, the number of EdUHK students participating in non-local learning programmes was 1,377. In 2016/17, it was 2,596.
Throughout the year, GAO organises different types of non-local learning programmes to facilitate students participation in activities that meet their aspirations. To relieve students' financial burden, the Office has made available various support schemes, e.g. IRLEF, EDB's MES, MOE to subsidise the corresponding costs. In 2011/12, number of students joining GAO's non-local learning programmes (credit-bearing and non-credit bearing) was 296. In 2016/17, the figure was 1,060.
Do you think students become more active in global issues or inter-culturally in their time at EdUHK?
Dr Xu: According to students' sharing and feedback after attending non-local experiential learning, they value highly their experience and agree that the activities have helped broaden their horizon.
Various "Internationalisation at home" initiatives, including the International Tutor Scheme, "LearnGlobally@EdUHK", also help promoting multiculturalism and integrating local and non-local students on campus.
Do you think EdUHK as a whole succeeds in its mission to make students more globally aware?
Dr Xu: There is an explicit Strategy for Internationalisation to guide the University community to move forward.
Faculties/Departments/Centres/Offices are encouraged to embed internationalisation and engagement with partners in their departmental strategic plans and annual development plans for implementation.
The establishment of dedicated offices such GAO and its forerunners, and the appointment of dedicated personnel in Faculties/Programme Offices (e.g. Associate Dean (International Engagement), Marketing Officers) help to enhance the quality and effectiveness of the University's internationalisation efforts.
As highlighted in the report of the Second QAC Audit: “The Audit Panel commends the University’s on-going process of operationalising its internationalisation strategies which involves widespread active engagement across a range of stakeholders, including senior management, teaching staff, academic support units and the student body and a commitment to internationalisation of the student experience, the curriculum and of the University itself.”
Also, “Overall, the Audit Panel concluded that operationalisation of the University’s Strategy for Internationalisation has already produced significant results. Students benefit from substantial opportunities for an internationalised learning experience, both at home and internationally, and the campus is an increasingly multicultural and culturally integrated environment. Good ground has already been made in forging regional and global links, from which students benefit considerably…”
How can EdUHK further improve students' global awareness in terms of formal curriculum, extra-curricular activities, pedagogy, assessment, and so on?
Dr Xu: One of the objectives of the new UG curriculum to be introduced in 2019/20 cohort is to create space and enrich the learning experience. Different components would be strengthened to help improve students' global perspectives, e.g. Experiential Learning electives, Co-curricular and Service Learning (CSL). If preferred, different study paths are also available to enable students to allocate credit points to meet their anticipation for non-local experiences.
In its Strategic Plan 2016-2025, the University has affirmed its commitment to establish a learning environment of cultural and linguistic diversity in support of the development of international perspectives. Considering that diversifying the student population is beneficial to local students, and meeting the strategic direction of the University in internationalisation, more efforts have been put in recruiting non-local students from countries/regions beyond the Greater China Region, e.g. along the Belt and Road region.
To raise the appeal to students, GAO has been collaborating with Faculties/Departments/Offices to organise more thematic non-local learning activities which cater for the needs and expectations of students in specific programmes/disciplines.
What other observations or other points would you like to share?
Dr Xu: Internationalisation is not supposed to be driven by one or two offices/departments, but rather, it should be considered as part of their natural duties of each academic and academic support unit. Creating more non-local experiential learning experiences is good for students to broaden their global perspective, and bring about positive impacts on their academic and career planning, but internationalisation at home is equally important. The collective role of all academic staff, as well as those academic support staff, is of ultimate importance in building an internationalised culture on campus.
Thank you for your time!