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UM’s postgraduate programmes attract talented students
With the rapid economic growth in Macao placing higher demands on workers in various industries, more and more people with a college degree feel compelled to pursue further education in order to remain competitive. In the 2015/2016 academic year, the postgraduate programmes offered by the University of Macau graduated 797 students, compared to only 203 graduates a decade ago. The nearly fourfold increase in the space of ten years shows that significantly more students are now choosing UM for further studies. But instead of resting on its laurels, the university is contemplating a reform of its postgraduate programmes, hoping that the revised programmes will better support the SAR government’s policies concerning the development of citizens’ skills and talents, attract more local students, and ultimately nurture more interdisciplinary professionals for Macao.
Increasing Number of Applicants
According to a survey on post-secondary students’ inclination to pursue further education, which was conducted by the Tertiary Education Services Office earlier this year, 25.2 per cent of the post-secondary students in Macao, or one in every four students surveyed, expressed an intention to pursue further studies after graduation. Between 2010 and 2016, an average of 2,000 students applied for UM’s postgraduate programmes every year, over 700 of whom were accepted.
Because of the increasing demand for postgraduate studies, UM's Graduate School became operational in 2009. All of the programmes offered by the Graduate School are carefully designed to provide postgraduate students with professional, comprehensive training, and thorough involvement in scholarship and research in their chosen areas of study. The Graduate School is committed to facilitating student success and serving as a strong advocate for their intellectual development. Over the past thirty years, the university has produced many outstanding graduates who have gone on to become leaders in various industries.
Like Swimming in the Deep End of the Pool
Cheang Tak Son completed his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral studies at UM. He is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) registered with the Engineering Council in the United Kingdom, a Chartered Environmentalist (CEnv) registered with the Society for the Environment in the UK, a registered senior engineer in China, a Chartered Building Engineer registered with the Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE) in the UK, and a fellow of the Society of Operations Engineers in the UK, the CABE , the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and the Chinese Society of Mechanical Engineers. Dr Cheang currently works at CEM as a senior engineer. He says studying for master’s and doctoral degrees was not easy, but the process provided good training. ’A degree, whether it’s a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or doctoral degree, represents the systematic training you have received,’ he says. ‘It also proves your ability to conduct micro- and macro-analysis of problems and produce solutions. These skills will give you an advantage in your future career development.’
Dr Cheang likens pursuing higher education to learning to swim. Studying for a bachelor’s degree, he explains, is like learning the basic techniques in the shallow end of the pool; pursuing a master’s degree is like improving one’s techniques and speed; studying for a doctoral degree involves further perfecting those techniques in order to innovate the swimming process itself. ‘When you look back on the difficulties you overcame during postgraduate studies, you would realize that all difficulties are pretty much the same,’ he says. ‘Then, when you encounter a difficulty in your life, you could remind yourself that it is probably not that much harder than the difficulties you faced during your postgraduate studies. Your postgraduate training may make you better than other people, bring you more career opportunities, and help you go father.’
Local Choices More Appealing
Some students prefer to study overseas in order to gain international experience, while others choose to stay in Macao. According to the survey mentioned above, of all the post-secondary students who intend to continue their studies, 52.4 per cent expect to do so in Macao. Dr Chan Chi Kwan, principal of Sheng Kung Hui Choi Kou School Macau, received a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in education from UM. He is also a recipient of the Medal of Merit—Education from the Macao SAR government. Dr Chan observes that many working people in Macao want to pursue further education but cannot afford to quit their jobs, and for these people, local institutions naturally become their optimal choice. ‘Although many programmes are also available in mainland China and other neighbouring regions, if you want to study without quitting your job, UM is certainly your best choice, whether in terms of employment prospects or the connections you can establish,’ he says. ‘Pursuing postgraduate studies is not just about acquiring professional knowledge and skills; it’s also about expanding your network by making new friends from similar professional backgrounds. And this is one of the advantages of pursuing postgraduate studies in Macao.’
With the popularisation of education in Macao over the past twenty years, many people are now able to complete secondary or even higher education, but Dr Chan concedes that the rapidly developing society places increasingly high demands on workers in different professions. ‘Today we may need college graduates to do jobs that previously could be done by high school graduates,’ he says. ‘For instance, in the past, a high school graduate was qualified to work as a car mechanic, but today, many car mechanics are college graduates with a degree in mechanical engineering. That’s because today’s cars are more advanced and complex, and you won’t be able to do the job without engineering knowledge.’
Choose the Path that Suits You
Dr Wong Hang Cheong, an international gold medallist in artistic cycling and a recipient of the Medal of Merit-Sport from the Macao SAR government, notes that whether or not college graduates should pursue further education is a decision that must be made on a case-by-case basis. ‘Doing a master or a PhD is not necessarily a good decision; it depends on the circumstances of each individual case,’ he says.
Dr Wong completed his bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral studies at UM. He now works in the university’s Automotive Engineering Laboratory. Wong is grateful for the support of his family and the scholarship provided by the university, which allowed him to continue his studies and represent Macao at artistic cycling competitions. ‘During my time at UM, I participated in a project commissioned by the Environmental Protection Bureau to study whether motorbikes are suitable for Macao,’ he says. ‘I analysed a lot of data and consulted previous research, and also did some test-driving. Then I and the other participants wrote an evaluation report and submitted it to the Environmental Protection Bureau. Promoting greener vehicles in Macao is not just aligned with my personal and research interests, it will also benefit Macao.’ Dr Wong says he made the right decision by choosing UM, but he also believes that everyone has a different path, and it is important to choose a path that suits oneself. ‘UM now has a better learning environment and better teaching resources, so it’s a good choice for anyone who wants to pursue further education,’ he says.
Introducing Middle School Students to Advanced Research
Lam Kai Heng is a teacher at Keang Peng School. He received his master’s degree from UM’s Institute of Chinese Medical Sciences (ICMS). Under his guidance, his students have won awards at many international competitions. Earlier, he became one of the first teachers in Macao to receive the honorary title of ‘Teacher with Outstanding Performance’ from the Education and Youth Affairs Bureau. ‘Studying for a master’s degree has expanded my academic horizons,’ he says. ‘If you had asked me to supervise students to do innovative research before I started my master’s programme, I would have doubted my ability to do that, but after I finished the programme, I felt I didn’t even have to confine my research to Chinese medicine. I learned a systematic way to explore the unknown, and I felt I could try anything, even if my attempts might end up in failure. ’
Lam teaches his students the skills he acquired during his master’s studies, such as how to choose a thesis topic, how to analyse data, how to write up research results, and how to conduct an oral defense. He always encourages his students to surpass their teachers, and surpass him they have. Two of his students designed a research project based on a topic Lam worked on as a master’s student. The project, designed to study the toxicity of the mercury compound HgS on the hearts of zebra embryos, received four major awards in 2014.
Bilingual Legal Expert with Multicultural Educational Background
Chen Defeng, a legal expert at Jorge Neto Valente Lawyers and Notaries, received a bachelor’s degree from Zhejiang University and a master’s degree from UM. The thesis he wrote for his bachelor’s degree concerns the challenges in implementing bilingual legislation in Macao and the relevant countermeasures. After graduation from Zhejiang University, he participated in a Chinese/Portuguese Bilingual Legal Talent Programme organised by the Macao Tong Chai Charity Association, through which he had the opportunity to go to Portugal to study Portuguese language and law. Later, he returned to Macao to study law. ‘Because I’ve studied in mainland China, Portugal, and Macao, I’m familiar with the legal systems in all three places, which has helped my career development,’ he says.
He adds, ‘The skills I acquired at UM are very helpful in my current job, because in the process of writing the thesis, I learned how to consider a problem from different angles, how to improve logical reasoning, and how to find solutions. These skills are all relevant to my current job.’ The research projects Chen participated in as a master’s student not only helped him acquire professional skills, but also gave him the opportunity to serve the community. For instance, he once participated in a legal research project commissioned by the Housing Bureau. He adds that students enrolled in the master’s programme came from different professions. Some of them were legal practitioners, others were government officials, and still others worked as lawyers. ‘It was always an enjoyable experience to discuss questions with students from different backgrounds, because local and non-local students have both commonalities and differences in their theoretical grounding, which made intellectual sparks fly,’ he says.
UM’s Graduate School currently offers more than 80 programmes in business administration, education, law, social sciences, the humanities, natural sciences, science and technology, health sciences, and Chinese medical sciences. Prof Shijian Mo, dean of the Graduate School and a legal expert, believes that demand for interdisciplinary professionals will continue to grow in the future. To meet the demand, the Graduate School plans to provide two kinds of training to postgraduate students. ‘We will open courses that answer the practical needs of society and train interdisciplinary professionals through these courses. We will also provide research-oriented training to students who are academically inclined,’ he says. ‘Knowledge cannot evolve without the support of high-tech research. So it’s important to derive new knowledge from scientific research to broaden the students’ horizons.’
He notes that in the future UM will also consider opening dual degree programmes, a practice followed by many universities in the world. ‘As a comprehensive university, UM is a leader in many disciplines. Economic diversification calls for interdisciplinary professionals. So UM will consider launching practical dual degree programmes to train interdisciplinary professionals needed by society,’ he says.