Notes for Teaching & Learning and Research

The University's mission

Since its foundation in 1911, the University of Hong Kong has given unparalleled service to Hong Kong and the region, drawing on the great cultural traditions of China and the West. We continue to strive to offer the highest standards of teaching and learning, research, and scholarship as practised in the wider, international academic community, in an environment conducive to creativity, to learning, and to freedom of thought, enquiry and expression.

We continue to produce graduates who are equipped to contribute to the intellectual, social, political, moral and material development of the societies in which they live; and who recognize that the development of contemporary societies reflects diversity alongside consensus and acknowledgement of the past as well as concern for innovation in the future.

We continue to undertake research, consultancy and other forms of service to the local and regional communities which will enrich our teaching and learning and advance our quest for wisdom and truth.
We believe in making known our mission in Hong Kong and internationally.


The University of Hong Kong will endeavour:

Academic organization

The University has ten faculties, with more than 50 teaching departments and schools subsumed under the Faculties of Architecture, Arts, Business and Economics, Dentistry, Education, Engineering, Law, Medicine, Science and Social Sciences. A number of centres and units outside the faculties also contribute to the teaching and research programmes.

Most first-degree curricula take four years of full-time study but some, notably those leading to professional qualifications, take five years (e.g. the BSc[Speech and Hearing Sciences], BNurs) or six years (in dentistry and medicine). Several dual-degree programmes enable students to attain two bachelor's degrees in five years in the fields of, for instance, arts and education, arts and law, education and science, education and social sciences, law and business, and law and political science. The University also offers a few undergraduate programmes on a part-time basis in response to community demand. Admission of students is to a curriculum and not to a department.

Students may enrol for higher degrees by research and coursework in any of the University's faculties and in some of the non-faculty centres. The research degrees of MPhil and PhD require a minimum of two and three years of full-time study respectively and may also be taken on a part-time basis. Coursework higher degrees usually take one or two years of full-time study or an equivalent period of part-time study.

In recognition of the importance of a broad-based education, especially at the undergraduate level, many curricula allow a choice of courses from different departments and faculties. There are a considerable number of inter-disciplinary first-degree and taught postgraduate programmes on offer.

Many degree programmes are subvented by the University Grants Committee (UGC) of Hong Kong and the tuition fees are set in accordance with levels set by the Government. Self-funded programmes are offered on a cost-recovery basis at a higher fee level. Many coursework postgraduate programmes and a few undergraduate ones have adopted such a model.

Student numbers

Following substantial increases in student enrolment targets during the 1990s in line with government policy, student numbers have stabilized in recent years. The headcount of student enrolments for 2016-17 is as follows:

Undergraduates: 16,809
Taught Postgraduates:   9,029
Research Postgraduates:   2,906
Total: 28,744

Research and postgraduate studies

The University has earned a proud reputation as a world-class comprehensive research university. Its research is of proven quality and utility, and it is very successful in the competitive local market for research funding. The University is hence able to attract the best research staff and the brightest research students.

Creating opportunities for excellence and impact in both research and innovation as well as to advance human knowledge for the benefit of society in Hong Kong, the wider region and the rest of the world is at the core of the mission of HKU. The University's research policy is formulated to strengthen its capabilities in both fundamental and outcome-driven research and knowledge exchange within a culture that enables our researchers to flourish and innovate. The University emphasises innovative, high-impact, and multidisciplinary research, and believes that a strong research record enhances the quality of research postgraduate education.

Research activities at the University span all major disciplines in both the arts and the sciences across our faculties and departments and research centres/institutes. HKU has members of more than 20 national academies around the world - including the largest number of Academicians of the Chinese Academy of Sciences or the Chinese Academy of Engineering of any local institution - and a sizeable number of HKU scholars are ranked in the top 1% according to ISI's Essential Science Indicators. The University's research in the arts and humanities, which is of an enviable variety and focuses on both local and global concerns, also makes a vital contribution to its high international standing. Research staff are recruited both locally and from leading universities in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America.

Interdisciplinary research is strongly encouraged for the valuable synergies it can produce. Alongside areas of strategic development, supporting curiosity-driven research of high intellectual quality is equally important to ensure the emergence of novel ideas and recognise discipline-specific needs. HKU is very supportive of innovative exploratory research to cultivate a vibrant research environment.

The institutes of research and innovation established by HKU in Shenzhen (HKU-SIRI) and Zhejiang (HKU-ZIRI) represent an integral part and an extension into the Chinese Mainland of the University's research. They will also play an important role in transferring technology and innovations from HKU to the Mainland. Participation in these institutes by HKU colleagues is welcomed.

One of the University's goals is to disseminate knowledge to benefit and serve Hong Kong, mainland China, and the international community. The transfer of the University's expertise and the fruits of its basic and applied research work makes an important contribution to the realisation of this vision. The University encourages engagement with business, government or the public through knowledge exchange (KE), which is an important way of achieving societal impact for the University's research beyond academia. The infrastructure to support KE includes a KE Office (KEO) and counterpart units within each faculty.

University-industry partnership is an important part of KE, and the commercialisation of intellectual property through technology transfer is encouraged by HKU, as the practical application of technological advances benefits both the University and the community as a whole. The Technology Transfer Office, as part of the KEO, provides services relating to technology transfer, research contract review and liaison with industries and businesses, while commercial operations come under Versitech Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of HKU.

As an international research-intensive university, HKU always realises the vital importance of research integrity, and all members of the University must observe the highest standards of professional conduct in pursuing their research activities. Responsible conduct of research (RCR) is promoted throughout our academic community, and a number of initiatives have been introduced to enhance awareness and enable the sharing of values and best practices. Initiatives include regular RCR seminars for staff; a research integrity funding scheme for faculty-based events; online materials for self-education; compulsory ethics courses for research postgraduate students; and active participation in international research integrity networks and activities.

Given its solid research reputation, the University is well-known as a centre for research postgraduate training, with a mission to provide first-class research postgraduate education and learning that meets the highest international standard. It nurtures future generations of leaders in all sectors of society through research postgraduate training (MPhil and PhD) as well as graduate education (taught master's degree courses, most of which contain a distinctive research component).

The University's Graduate School works closely with faculties and departments in ensuring the quality of its research postgraduate programmes. Through the School's website, its regular Newsletter, and the Handbook for MPhil and PhD Programmes, research students are kept informed of all new developments affecting their studies.

The total number of enrolled research students is around 2,900 (by headcount), with students coming from over 60 countries. HKU values the important role played by overseas students in providing intellectual stimulation and contributing to the social and cultural life of the University.

Teaching and learning

Teaching and learning is a cornerstone of the University's vision and mission.  The University has well-established professional faculties, such as Architecture, Dentistry, Engineering, Law and Medicine, and a strong tradition of general degree teaching in the humanities, sciences and social sciences. English is the medium of instruction and is used for teaching and learning activities, and for assessment. Other languages are used, e.g. in courses conducted by the Schools of Chinese and Modern Languages and Cultures as well as in some programmes in Education and Speech and Hearing Sciences, alongside courses which involve interaction with non-English speaking community members.

Undergraduate and taught postgraduate curricula adopt a credit unit system, which is based on the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). In implementing an outcome-based approach to student learning (OBASL), all faculties have formulated course and programme learning outcomes which are aligned with the University's Educational Aims, in addition to a standards-referenced approach to assessment.

As part of the Government's plan for a new "3+3+4" academic structure for Senior Secondary Education and Higher Education in Hong Kong, undergraduate education at the University underwent an extensive reform to transition from the previous three-year curriculum to a four-year curriculum in 2012.  The reformed four-year undergraduate curriculum enables students to develop their intellectual capabilities through a structure which facilitates disciplinary and inter-disciplinary studies and the acquisition of common learning experiences, viz. Common Core Curriculum, experiential learning, global experience, innovative learning environment, first year experience and academic induction, capstone experience and undergraduate research, and internationalised learning environment.

Alongside a rich variety of undergraduate programmes, the University offers a wide range of full-time and part-time taught postgraduate programmes in different disciplines.  There are also joint/dual degrees and off-campus degrees offered in partnership with mainland and international institutions.  These may be at taught postgraduate or undergraduate level.

More information is available on the University's T&L website at http://tl.hku.hk/.

Language enhancement

The University is firmly committed to providing high-quality language enhancement programmes with a view to helping students improve their English and Chinese language competencies so as to enable them to maximize academic success and become effective communicators, which will in turn facilitate their multicultural understanding and support their future studies and employment. Undergraduate students are required to complete enhancement courses in both English and Chinese as part of their degree requirements.

Supporting services

Teaching and learning and research are well supported by academic and other facilities. The library is centrally located on the main campus with branches in the Faculties of Dentistry, Education, Law and Medicine. There is on-line access to its catalogue and the catalogues of all the tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. Information Technology Services supports a campus-wide network and the University has achieved its aim of providing a desktop computer for every teacher. Staff members have access to territory-wide computing facilities including a supercomputer. Innovative design of spaces for teaching and fostering learning communities was incorporated into the construction of the University's Centennial Campus.

The University is developing the use of new technologies both to support its teaching and learning and research and as an integral part of its academic programmes. The Centre for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning supports the professional development of teachers and innovation in teaching.

Quality assurance and enhancement

The University has in place many means of assisting staff to maintain and enhance standards in teaching, learning and research. For teaching and learning, it has an established system of external examiners, and a system of regular comprehensive review of faculties and individual academic curricula to benchmark against international standards. It also collects feedback from stakeholders through student evaluation of teaching and learning, learning experience surveys, and graduate and employer surveys. There are teaching and learning quality committees at University and faculty levels to promote teaching and learning of high quality. There are also different teaching and learning schemes, including Teaching Development Grants, Teaching Exchange Fellowship and Teaching Excellence Awards, to encourage and support teaching and curricular innovations, and to recognize and promote teaching excellence. Further details are available in the University's Quality Manual at http://tl.hku.hk/quality-manual/.

International links

Hong Kong's geopolitical location, its extraordinary commercial vigour and its high standard of living combine to promote an international outlook. Our neighbours have high expectations of Hong Kong and especially of its tertiary institutions in the areas of research and education. The University is outward looking and has developed a wide network of links with universities worldwide and especially in Australia, China, Europe and North America. Within Hong Kong we collaborate with the other tertiary institutions through teaching and joint research projects.

We actively promote all of these links, particularly those with Mainland China. Many of our staff have close links with colleagues in universities in the Mainland and visit to conduct teaching and research there. Recent agreements with international and Mainland institutions will lead to many more exchanges of postgraduate and undergraduate students in both directions, and greater involvement of Mainland scholars in our own teaching and research. Our objectives here include facilitating the development of high technology industry in Hong Kong and Mainland China; backing the evolution of science-based interactions with Mainland China; and promoting advances in total health care through our Faculties of Dentistry and Medicine for the benefit of the peoples of Hong Kong, Mainland China and the region.

March 2017