CUHK Launches APRU Virtual Student Exchange International Education Unbounded
The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed travel restrictions across the world, bringing a halt to study abroad worldwide. Recognising the opportunity to innovate in international education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has developed the Virtual Student Exchange (VSE) programme within the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU), a network of 56 leading research universities from around the Pacific Rim. The VSE enables students to receive international education and experience from some of the best universities in the world without having to leave home. Utilising digital technologies to adopt online learning and virtual interactions, the programme began its pilot semester in August 2020 with 14 participating APRU member universities from nine economies, and more than 400 applications were received for its academic courses.
Besides CUHK, APRU member universities participating in the pilot semester include Chulalongkorn University, Keio University, Korea University, Osaka University, Tecnológico de Monterrey, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Tohoku University, University of California, Los Angeles, University of California, Riverside, University of Chile, Universidad San Francisco de Quito, University of Oregon, and UNSW Sydney.
A total of 78 online academic courses are offered at the VSE’s first-ever semester on a plethora of topics, ranging from the culture of Hong Kong, impacts of climate change, business in Latin America, to indigenous languages. These courses, available in synchronous, asynchronous or hybrid delivery modes for students from different time zones, attracted over 400 applications with more than 200 students being accepted and enrolled.
In order to provide an experience which is somewhat synonymous to physical study abroad, a series of co-curricular programmes are offered to facilitate encounters with new ideas, cultures, experts, academics and students around the world. Open to students from all APRU member universities, these programmes bring together participants from diverse backgrounds to prepare for job interviews, explore Ecuador’s Galápagos Islands, discover historic Hong Kong and even showcase their talent in music jam sessions. As of October 2020, 18 co-curricular programmes are being offered.
The VSE and four CUHK scientists named Falling Walls Science Breakthroughs of the Year finalists
In recognition of its innovative work, the VSE has been nominated to and is a finalist in the digital education category for this year’s Falling Walls Science Breakthroughs of the Year. The Falling Walls Foundation, a non-profit organisation supported by the German Ministry for Education and Research, hosts an annual science forum that showcases and celebrates the most recent breakthroughs in science and society. This year, the event will be conducted online to bring together outstanding science projects and bright minds globally to inspire a discussion on how science and innovation can contribute to the state of mankind. The event celebrates work in 10 scientific, innovation and humanistic categories. Please see Professor Rocky S. Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President of CUHK’s presentation of the VSE at https://falling-walls.com/remote2020/finalists/breaking-the-wall-to-a-virtual-global-student-exchange/.
Professor Rocky S. Tuan remarked, “The pandemic has taught us that the world must work together to solve present and future challenges. We believe the VSE programme will accomplish this by developing truly global citizens by widely adopting digital technology. We foresee that the VSE programme will not merely be a Plan B, but instead will become an integral and inclusive mechanism of international student exchange even in the post-pandemic world. It trains students to develop digital competence, and also enables them to adapt to and engage in cross-cultural and remote settings which will become a lot more common in the future workplace. We are heartened by the enthusiastic response and support from our APRU friends, and feel greatly empowered to make a difference.”
CUHK members being shortlisted as finalists in the Falling Walls Science Breakthroughs of the Year include:
- Professor Rocky S. Tuan – Breaking the wall of international education through virtual student exchange in the digital education category
- Professor Yi Chun Lu – Breaking the wall of safe energy storage in the engineering and technology category
- Professor Lin Liu – Breaking the wall to cryosphere monitoring in the physical sciences category
- Professor Siew Chien Ng – GenieBiome Limited: Breaking the wall of cancer using novel microbes in the science start-ups category
- Professor Mee Kam Ng – Breaking the wall to ecological and humane urbanism in the social sciences and humanities category