Plans for a Jesuit Liberal Arts College (JLAC) in Hong Kong reached a new level in January with the convening of a two-day inaugural College Board of Trustees meeting. The trustees gathered in Hong Kong to discuss the academic and strategic planning of the JLAC and visit the Queen’s Hill site, where the Jesuits hope to locate the university.
The Board, which comprises 15 international and 9 local trustees, 14 of whom are Jesuits, agreed that the proposed JLAC will bring tremendous value both to the Society and China and should be established, without underestimating the arduousness of the process and its uncertainties.
The Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus has been planning the proposed JLAC for more than two years. It has established partnerships for the JLAC with 25 Jesuit universities around the world and it has been lobbying for some time to secure the use of the Queen’s Hill site in the New Territories. As it waits for the government to issue the long-anticipated tender document for the site, progress has been made towards meeting the eligibility requirements for the land grant. JLAC received in January a positive final report from the accreditation agency, the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications.
“Receiving the Institutional Review status means that the JLAC will be considered to have an overall academic environment suitable for the delivery of programmes at Bachelor’s Degree level at Qualifications Framework Level 5,” said Fr Stephen Chow SJ, Chair of the Preparatory Task Force of the JLAC in his recent newsletter to friends and supporters of the project. “This is an essential condition for the College to be considered eligible for the land grant.”
The Jesuits have also held a public seminar on the proposed university to inform and educate people in Hong Kong on how Jesuit educational institutions have a mission to serve the poor, and discuss how providing access to higher education can combat poverty and enhance social mobility.
Held on January 28, the seminar featured keynote speakers from two well-known Jesuit universities in the United States – Dr John J DeGioia, President of Georgetown University, and Fr Michael Engh SJ, President of Santa Clara University.
Fr Engh was quoted in Hong Kong daily, The South China Morning Post, saying that all his students have to take an experiential learning for social justice course which includes visits to the poor, the homeless and the abused. “The idea is to educate the mind but also to change the heart. It’s the Jesuit education philosophy to have direct contact with people in need.”
The speeches were followed by a thought-provoking panel discussion among local and international educators – Professor Lui Tai Lok (University of Hong Kong), Professor Francis Lui (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology), Fr Jose Morales Orozco SJ (President (Rector) Universidad Iberoamerica, Mexico City), Fr Nicolas Standaert SJ (Leuven University), Ms Ada Wong (School Supervisor of the HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity), and Fr Chow.
The proposed university will offer three streams of study – social studies, humanities, and mathematics & natural sciences. It will also offer theology classes, like other Jesuit universities, not only to teach Catholicism but also to help students understand other religions, ethics, and their internal spiritual lives by pondering questions such as the meaning of evil and what it means to be human.