|On 27 June 2009, Saturday, the ninth session of the Standing Committee of the eleventh National People’s Congress (NPC) passed a bill to authorize the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) to have jurisdiction over the new campus of the University of Macau (UM) on Hengqin Island, Guangdong Province, Mainland China. The passage of this bill means that the Macao SAR Government will exercise jurisdiction over the new campus zone according to the laws of the Macao SAR. UM officials point out that this authorization not only demonstrates the great importance that the Central Government attaches to nurturing talents for Macao through higher education, and the determination of the SAR Government to support UM’s development, but also reflects the NPC Standing Committee’s respect for the opinions and suggestions raised by the Macao community as well as UM faculty, staff and students during the process of consultation. The new campus will offer an appropriate academic environment and advanced teaching and research facilities to enable UM to pursue its objectives of offering high quality undergraduate education and promoting innovation in scientific research, thereby developing UM into a world-class university.
Dr. Daniel Tse Chi-Wai, Chair of the University Council of UM, says that the establishment of the Hengqin campus will be conducive to developing UM into a university of international standing and nurturing outstanding leaders for Macao and beyond. Furthermore, it will help strengthen the collaboration between Guangdong, Macao and Hong Kong in higher education as set out in the Outline of the Plan for the Reform and Development of the Pearl River Delta, and promote an appropriate diversification of Macao’s industries in accordance with the Hengqin Island Overall Development Plan recently ratified by the State Council. UM Rector Wei Zhao says that the construction of the Hengqin campus is an unprecedented and great undertaking which will bring far-reaching benefits for UM’s long-term development. Granted by the Central Government to UM, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is the first of its kind. He says: “UM is a young university with a short history of 28 years, but it already enjoys good reputation both at home and abroad. The Central Government’s support for UM is a recognition of the diligent efforts of all UM staff members over the past two decades. Prof. Zhao further notes that UM’s uniqueness, educational ideals and governance regime, as well as its teaching, research and administrative systems will be maintained on the Hengqin campus, which will complement the higher education system in Mainland China and help accelerate joint development.
The new campus will be located on the eastern coast of Hengqin Island and to the south of the Lotus Bridge. The site is just across a narrow water channel from Macao. It will cover approximately one square kilometre (100 hectares). A tunnel will be built under the channel to enable 24-hour commuting between the Hengqin campus and Macao. Faculty, students, staff, visitors and the Macao residents will be able to access the campus conveniently through the tunnel without going through any border control. The new campus will be twenty times larger than the current one, with a minimum accommodation capacity of 10,000 students, which echoes the student enrollment target set out in the 10-Year Development Strategy.
With a spacious new campus, UM will be able to pursue high quality undergraduate education and promote innovation in scientific research to the fullest extent, particularly on the following fronts: (I) Teaching: UM will increase the number of faculties from five to eight, thereby providing a more comprehensive range of academic programmes and more choices for local high school graduates. (II) Campus life: UM will introduce a residential college system. Around ten residential colleges will be set up to enrich students’ campus life and attain the objective of whole-person education. Students from different majors, backgrounds and academic levels living in the same college can experience diverse lifestyles, cultures and ways of thinking through the interaction with peers and teachers. (III) Research development: three open research bases, namely Information and Electronic Research Base, Medical and Pharmaceutical Research Base, and Energy and Environmental Research Base, will be set up to promote R/D exchange and collaboration between UM and other universities in Macao, the Pearl River Delta Region and beyond. In addition, UM will promote commercialization of its research outcomes so as to create opportunities for an appropriate diversification of Guangdong and Macao’s industries.
The Hengqin campus will be a green, efficient, and eco-friendly campus. The overall design will be people-oriented and aims to reflect UM’s educational ideals. Emphasis will be on creating a comfortable, liberal, but stimulating atmosphere. The architectural style will mainly feature four unique Macao characteristics, namely “a blend of Chinese and western cultures”, “a combination of mountain and sea views”, “a reflection of the characteristics of Southern Chinese Region”, and “a style reminiscent of South European flavour”. New technologies and new materials will be utilized to create a green, efficient, energy-saving and eco-friendly university with a solid foundation for sustainable growth. The new campus will not only become a new landmark in Macao and Hengqin, but also feature a landscape that is unique among universities around the world. The architectural design will reflect UM’s educational ideals and highlight a tiered layout of the residential colleges. The new campus is expected to be completed within three years. After the construction is completed, relocation will be carried out in an orderly and stage-by-stage manner. Once the new campus is in use, the current campus will continue to serve for educational, academic, cultural, recreational and sports activities that are relevant to the Macao community.
Being the leading public university in Macao, UM is dedicated to its mission of nurturing talents for the local community. Therefore it is important for UM to possess outstanding faculty members and sufficient financial resources. It is equally important to have a sufficiently large campus that allows UM to pursue its educational ideals and carry out various teaching and research activities. The Central Government’s approval for providing UM with a piece of land on Hengqin Island and the NPC Standing Committee’s decision to authorize the Macao SAR Government to exercise jurisdiction over the new campus area have solved the problem of land scarcity that has hindered UM’s development for a long time. The area per student of the current campus is only 8 square metres, far less than the minimum 67-square-metre-per-student standard set by the Ministry of Education. The embarrassing fact of “buildings with no open space” makes it impossible for UM to pursue its educational ideals to the fullest extent.
Since 2002 UM has been engaged in seeking for a piece of green field to realize the dream of building a new campus, but to no avail due to the limited land resources in the densely-populated territory of Macao. In February 2006, the Legislative Assembly of the Macao SAR passed the Judicial Regime of the University of Macau, establishing a new legal status for UM. In 2007 UM submitted several proposals fof land acquisition to the SAR Government, but none were considered feasible due to various valid reasons. In the same year, UM formulated its 10-Year Development Strategy, which rendered the need for building a new campus more urgent. In May 2007, the possibility of building a new campus on Hengqin Island was discussed for the first time at the Joint Meeting of the University Assembly and University Council presided over by the Chief Executive. After a field trip to Hengqin Island, the University Council submitted a formal proposal regarding the construction of a new campus on Hengqin Island to the SAR Government in mid 2008. In January 2009 following a visit paid to Macao by Mr. Xi Jinping, Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, UM was informed of the possibility of building a campus on Hengqin Island and that this campus would serve as a “pilot project” as part of a wider collaboration between Guangdong and Macao in the joint development of Hengqin, and UM immediately started the process of revising the campus construction proposal. Starting from February UM carried out 21 consultation and briefing sessions to collect opinions inside and outside campus for the revision. A draft proposal on the “Preliminary Thoughts and Concepts on UM Hengqin Campus” was subsequently submitted to the University Council and was approved after careful and intense deliberation. The proposal was then submitted to the SAR Government for consideration. The SAR Government attached great importance to this proposal, and on 24 April officially submitted a proposal to the State Council requesting the Central Government to approve the establishment of UM Hengqin campus and to authorize the Macao SAR to have jurisdiction over the new campus site. Subsequently, the bill proposing to authorize the Macao SAR to have jurisdiction over the UM Hengqin campus site was submitted by the State Council to the NPC Standing Committee on 22 June and was passed on 27 June.
1) Chief Executive of Macao SAR Mr. Ho Hau Wah giving a speech at a press conference regarding to the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress’ Approval of Authorizing Macao SAR to Exercise Jurisdiction over UM Hengqin Campus
2) (from left) Rector of the University of Macau Prof. Wei Zhao, Chair of the University Council Dr. Tse Chi Wai, Secretary for Transport and Public Works Mr. Lau Si Io and Director of Government Information Bureau Mr. Victor Chan of the Macao SAR Government