Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lingnan University

It's been a couple weeks since I posted; haven't had much new to report I guess.  Walking the kids to the bus this morning, I asked them for ideas.  "Why don't you blog about Lingnan, Dad?"  It was a great idea, and the morning light was particularly nice.  So, after seeing them off to school, I grabbed a camera and took a bunch of pictures.

Lingnan University, where we're housed this semester, has a beautiful campus, and it was hard to select among the dozens of photos, but I've whittled it down to 15 that capture the campus fairly well.

This is the main entrance to campus, which is a pedestrian-only entrance.  There are only two car entrances (one more than UMass Dartmouth!), but Lingnan has a very high residential rate and many staff arrive by public transportation.  (Part of the reason: the excise tax on new cars is about 50% of their value--yikes!)

After walking under the entrance, you come upon the main campus square.  They hold most campus events here, such as the Dance Night and International Night events we had checked out and written about earlier.  Right now it's set up for a recruitment event, which is taking place this weekend.

Lingnan has about 2200 students, only about 65 of whom are graduate students.  Among the eight public universities in Hong Kong, it's the smallest and widely viewed as the one occupying the bottom rung.  This is evident in rankings based on faculty research as well as by looking at what students request when they submit their applications (HK has a unified admissions process, where students rank their top-25 programs (i.e., majors), and the departments admit their top choices of students).  In other words, Lingnan is a safety school.  But, it's important to point out that only the top 15-20% of Hong Kong secondary students get into any of the public universities (which are the most prestigious; the privates are less so).  So, Lingnan may get the bottom of the cream of the crop, but it's still the cream of the crop.

If you turn left from the main square, you come upon this pleasant garden...

...and then the really nice, 50 meter pool.  When we first arrived, the sun pushed pool temperatures into the upper 80s and even the 90s, so lap swimming was difficult.  Now, it's great.  The only issue is that the campus restaurant and dining hall are in this building adjacent to the pool, so if you swim late in the afternoon with an empty stomach, the smells waft down and make it difficult to think of anything but dinner.

This is the dining hall, or canteen, as it's called here.  Not very large, and it's the only dining hall on campus.  It serves Chinese food, with few exceptions.

If you turn right from the main square, you come upon this relaxing koi pond.

Also to the right is the business building, where my office is located--it's on the top floor on the other side, looking out toward the student hostels (i.e., dorms).  Lingnan is unusual in several ways.  It has always been known as the only liberal arts university in Hong Kong--the others are very research-focused and tend toward narrow professional programs.  The teaching load here is 3-3 or 3-2, whereas the other university faculty teach 2-2 loads or even less (hence the rankings on research).  Classes are small, student-faculty relations are very personalized, most students live on campus and there has always been a gen ed program. 

This niche may be challenged, however.  For one thing, the new gen ed reforms I wrote about earlier mean all the universities will essentially become liberal arts universities.  For another, research pressures here at Lingnan are intense, partly because of a desire to climb up the rankings but also because the government is introducing a new plan to base campus funding in part on the research productivity of the faculty.

The other unusual feature of Lingnan is that, despite branding itself as a liberal arts university, it has no math or science faculty.  There is a business college, an arts college and a social science college.   Science and math faculty have no home.  There are a few adjuncts, often visiting professors, who are housed in the gen ed office and teach math or science.  But, it's not a required part of the curriculum.

This is a view of the main square from the business building, sort of the reverse angle of the prior picture.  You can see the mountains in the distance, obscured by the "respirable suspended particulates."

Further past the koi pond and the business building, there is a quaint gazebo at the top of a steep, wooded hill.

Also on the hill is the university president's house.  Nice place.  And, check out the Mercedes Benz in the driveway.  That is classic Hong Kong.  In the US, presidents at public universities are often a bit modest in personal style, lest they give the impression they're wasting taxpayer money.  At UMass Dartmouth, our campus chief executive drives a Toyota--nice, but not too nice.  In Hong Kong, you're not important unless you have a Benzie.  Seriously.

This is the student hostel just behind the president's house.  I have a nice view of this from my office, and our apartment looks out on this as well.

This is one of the car entrances, and the one we use most days when heading to the train.  You can see the Visitor's Quarters, where we are living, on the right.

And here's a clear view of the VQ, as it's called.  The scaffolding and green netting finally came off this week.  Both the main door and the apartment door have a code-entry system, and since the boys have memorized the codes they often run ahead of us and let themselves in.  It's nice for them to have that ability without worrying they'll lose they keys.

All in all, I'd say Lingnan has a beautiful campus.  Among the other HK universities I've visited, it has by far the most interesting architecture, a blend of contemporary style with classic Chinese elements.  It integrates pleasant gardens and such into the campus.  Most of the walkways are covered--critical in the brutal Hong Kong climate.  It's setting, nestled into the hills and mountains, adds to the beauty.  And I've enjoyed very much my interactions with the faculty and staff, as well as the students.  It's really a nice place to work and live.

1 comment:

  1. Looks beautiful Doug. A lot different than the UMass D campus which I like in a different way.
    Greg Jones