University promises information freedom for students in Hengqin campus

Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Issue 664, Page 4
Word count: 899
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The University of Macau (UM) pledged at the legislature yesterday that freedom of information will be assured for its students in the future campus in Hengqin Island of Zhuhai.

The preliminary plan of the new school campus was presented to lawmakers by Rector Zhao Wei, University Council Chair Daniel Tse Chi Wai and Vice Rector for Administration Alex Lai Iat Long.

A 10-year construction period in three phases is proposed for the one million square metre school grounds on a land parcel stretching one to 1.4 square kilometres on the eastern cost of Hengqin, which will overlook Macau just across a strip of sea water.

According to Dr Tse, the Hengqin campus is a “solution” to congestion in the existing Taipa campus and can help UM “expand its scale and enhance its academic level” in an international standard.

The university currently has about 6,000 students, and Dr Tse said the area occupied by each student was far behind that of a “well established high school”.

The size of the new campus equals to 120 hectares is calculated based on the vision to have up to 15,000 students ultimately.

In contrast, the Taipa campus occupies only 5.5 hectares.

Dr Tse also said that the school relocation will mean the beginning of development in Hengqin,  and will also promote cooperation between Zhuhai, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as accelerate Macau’s industrial diversification.

Meanwhile, Professor Zhao told lawmakers that by having a larger campus, UM will increase as many as three faculties to nine, and also introduce eight to 10 residential colleges and about three open bases for scientific research.

A library and an information centre, as well as a student activity centre will be built at the same time.

The Rector also said that UM has proposed to the SAR government to retain the Taipa campus for an adult education purpose after the relocation is fully completed.

On the other hand, in order to ensure independence of the UM despite having the school grounds physically on the mainland soil, it is suggested that the legal systems of Macau should continue to be applied after the relocation.

They include the financial and tax systems, the Legal Regime of UM, the Charter, the Personnel Statute of UM, as well as the university’s various internal regulations and rules.

In terms of public facilities and services such as water, electricity, gas, fixed and mobile phone networks, Internet, cable and wireless television, post, medical care, waste and sewage treatment and fire safety will all comply with Macau’s existing regulations and be monitored and approved by the SAR authorities.

As for the issue of immigration control, Administration Vice Rector Dr Lai said a special passageway for pedestrians and traffic might be built so that students will not need to go through the clearance every day.

He said that two proposals are outlined, in which one is to make use of the Lotus Bridge and move the Cotai border immigration to Hengqin, while the other one is to build a new overpass connecting the Hengqin campus with the SAR.

However, either way the university will at the same time need to separate the campus from the rest of Hengqin Island so as to avoid security issues such as illegal immigrants.

Hence, segregation measures, for example an artificial lake and forest around the margin of the campus are proposed in the preliminary plan.

Dr Lai said UM does not prefer to build a wire fence or a wall as it will “damage the harmony atmosphere and the feeling of a free environment in the campus”.

The UM academics did not provide a figure for the cost of the new campus construction yet, stressing that the proposal is merely an “introduction” to the project.

Dr Tse told the concerned lawmakers that it is estimated that the construction will not cost the SAR government over 10 billion patacas, referring to the example in Guangzhou where about 3.6 billion patacas were invested for building one university.

Legislative Assembly president Susana Chou reminded the academics not to overlook the importance of retaining local students to pursue higher education in Macau.

Otherwise, she said the SAR government-funded campus will not be fully enjoyed by a majority of Macau students but by others, non-local ones.

She added that such a scenario would be “unfair” to Macau residents.

According to the University Council Chairperson, the problem of lack of space in the present campus has already appeared back in 2002.

In early 2007 when UM drew up the 10-year development strategy, three proposals were submitted to the government – land reclamation and acquiring land parcels from around the Taipa campus.

However, Dr Tse said none of the suggestions was later deemed feasible.

In May 2007 the Chief Executive chaired for the first time the joint conference of the University Assembly and the University Council, where he revealed the idea of relocating the UM campus to Hengqin Island.

Not until January this year was the new campus proposal accepted by the Chinese central government, and a land parcel reserved for the UM as part of the exploitation plan of the island in Zhuhai.

According to the schedule the University Council will need to submit a more detailed conceptual plan of the Hengqin campus to the SAR government by the mid of this month in order to take the discussion with the mainland authorities to the next level.

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