Seizing Opportunities and Marching Forward Together – Development of Higher Education after the Establishment of the Macao Special Administrative Region
Since the establishment of the Macao SAR Government, it has been adhering to the policy of “Education to Prosper Macao and Talents to Shape Macao”, actively improving the construction of the higher education regime, increasing resources, enhancing the quality of higher education, ensuring academic autonomy, promoting scientific research and innovation, and striving to cultivate various talents.
The popularization and expansion of higher education
With the development of Macao, higher education has become more and more popular. The enrollment rate of high school graduates has increased from about 70% in the initial period after the Handover to more than 90% in recent years. Meanwhile, there are currently 10 higher education institutions in Macao. Despite the fact that there is only an increase of 3 in the total number compared to that before the Handover, the whole scale of higher education has shown a multiple expansion.
In the 2018/2019 academic year, there were 2,931 teaching and research personnel, 34,279 students, and 280 programs in various higher education institutions. Compared to the initial period of the Handover, the number of programs has increased by about 50%, while the number of teaching and research personnel and that of students have both soared by nearly three times. In addition, Macao higher education is increasingly favored by foreign students. The number of non-local students has increased from 5,653 in the initial period to 17,992 in the current academic year, with an increase of more than two times. Together with the growth of non-local students, more teaching and research personnel from different countries or regions have been attracted to work in Macao. The diverse cultural background and academic traditions are conducive to creating freer and more open academic environment and atmosphere.
The steady enhancement of the quality of higher education
The Macao SAR Government attaches great importance to the continuous enhancement of the quality of higher education. In addition to the establishment of a higher education quality evaluation system, it has joined three international higher education quality assurance organizations in recent years, including the Higher Education Quality Assurance Network (INQAAHE), the Asia Pacific Quality Assurance Network (APQN) and the Higher Education Quality Assurance International (CIQG) under the US Higher Education Accreditation Council (CHEA),. Meanwhile, the Macao SAR Government also encourages higher education institutions to build better and stronger teaching and research teams. Since the Handover, the proportion of doctoral teaching staff has climbed from about 15% to about 64%, with an increase of more than three times.
With the concerted efforts of the higher education institutions and society, the quality of Macao higher education has gradually gained international recognition. For example, the University of Macau ranks 60th in the 2019 Times Higher Education World Young University Rankings; the Macau University of Science and Technology ranked 21st among the universities in the Cross-Strait regions, Hong Kong and Macao in 2018; the Institute for Tourism Studies ranks 5th in Asia and 33rd in the world among the top universities offering programs on hospitality and leisure management; a total of 29 higher education programs were accredited by international or regional professional organizations in the 2017/2018 academic year, including the Washington Accord, the Seoul Accord, the United Nations World Tourism Organization, the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA); and the academic unit of one higher education institution has obtained professional accreditation from an accrediting body.
The perfection of the higher education regime
A good system is a prerequisite for the continuous development of higher education. The original higher education regulation of Macao was set in the early 1990s. As soon as the Macao SAR Government was established, the higher education regime was reviewed. Since 2002, the Macao SAR Government had been collecting opinions on the revision of the aforementioned regulation through numerous consultations with representatives from higher education institutions in Macao and by receiving their written comments, and subsequently through two public consultations to collect more views. After a long period of in-depth discussion, the “Higher Education Regime” bill was passed by the Legislative Council in 2017. Since this law is of a framework nature, a series of relevant administrative regulations has subsequently been announced.
Compared to the original regime, the new higher education regime places more focus on the assurance and enhancement of the quality of higher education, and greatly increases the flexibility of higher education institutions in opening programs. Moreover, it emphasizes cooperation, mobility and resource sharing, strengthens the liaison between higher education and society, and between higher education and the world, as well as providing greater protection for resource investment. The introduction of the credit system, the construction of the quality evaluation system, the establishment of the Higher Education Committee and the Higher Education Fund, and the restructuring of the higher education administrative department, all of which have provided even stronger support for the development of higher education and promoted continuous enhancement of Macao higher education .
Commitment to ensure autonomy of higher education institutions
The Macao SAR Government has always shown great respect for the independence and autonomy of higher education institutions in the teaching and academic areas. Apart from the protection stipulated in relevant laws and regulations, it has also granted the University of Macau the status to offer and regulate new higher education programs since 2006 through the establishment of the “Judicial Regime of the University of Macau”.
With the implementation of the new higher education regime, higher education institutions have been further protected in terms of autonomy in academy, teaching, administration and finance. Under the new regime, other higher education institutions in Macao can carry out accreditation according to the provisions. After meeting the accreditation standards, they can apply to the Macao SAR Government for the status to offer and regulate their own programs, thus creating more space for the development of teaching and talents training.
The flourishment of academic research
In recent years, with great support from the nation and the SAR government, higher education institutions, through their self-efforts, have set up national key laboratories and other scientific research units, gradually developing some advantageous areas in research. In the field of Chinese medicine quality research, simulation and hybrid-signal chip design, the Internet of Things (IoT) technology as well as space science, higher education institutions have already laid a solid foundation for research and development, forming higher-level research teams and emerging in the international academia.
In addition to research on high-end technology, academic and research activities in higher education are getting increasingly active. According to the data, the number of papers by academic researchers in Macao higher education institutions and published annually in major international journals has soared from 726 in the 2011/2012 academic year to 3,712 in the 2017/2018 academic year, with an increase of more than four times within years. At the same time, the number of international seminars organized by higher education institutions is also rising. Taking the 2017/2018 academic year as an example, there were all together 58 international seminars, forums and academic conferences held by Macao higher education institutions. In other words, one international academic activity was conducted in less than a week’s time. The vibrant international academic exchange activities set up a stage for scholars to carry out academic discussions and created a freer, more open and more diverse academic atmosphere on the campus.
In addition, since 2013, the Macao SAR Government has encouraged teaching and research staff of higher education institutions to participate in overseas academic activities, and to publish and publicize research findings through the “Subsidy Scheme for Macao Higher Education Teaching and Research Staff Professional Development”. Since its launch, 172 personnel have been granted funding, totaling nearly 2.5 million, to conduct various academic exchanges in the Mainland, Portugal, the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore and Australia, etc.
The changes witnessed by practitioners
The profound changes along the history of Macao higher education can be truly comprehended through the experience and feelings of academia who have strived hard for Macao higher education for a long time.
Dr. Fanny Vong, President of Institute for Tourism Studies, expressed that after the Handover, the enrollment rate of secondary school graduates in Macao has continued to rise. The increase in the number of higher education institutions in Macao just provides students with a diversity of choices. As far as higher education institutions are concerned, the focus of institutional development has shifted from the growth of “quantity” to the enhancement of “quality”, and quality is gradually recognized internationally, especially in Portuguese, tourism and other specific subject areas which have received a high degree of international recognition, and have great influence. Dr. Vong added that the number of regional and international exchange activities carried out by higher education institutions has increased, subsequently broadening the horizons of both the teachers and the students. What impressed Dr. Vong most were the discussions and the legislative process of the new higher education regime. In her opinion, the new regime provides more autonomy for the development of higher education, promotes international exchanges and program collaboration, and further ensures academic autonomy, while the establishment of the Board and the quality evaluation system has played a positive role in institutional governance and quality enhancement.
In the eyes of Rui Martins, the Vice Rector of the University of Macau, the establishment of the Science and Technology Development Fund in 2005, the construction and completion of the Hengqin Campus of the University of Macau, the publication of the “Judicial Regime of the University of Macau” in 2006, the advocacy of the Portuguese language in many higher education institutions and the implementation of the higher education regime are the most profound changes in higher education that impressed him most. In terms of institutional governance, the University of Macau was entitled to more academic, teaching and administrative autonomy when the aforementioned law was announced in 2006; in terms of academic work, academic and teaching autonomy has been strengthened and the field of knowledge has become more diversified. This relevant development not only has attracted many teaching and research personnel, but has also contributed to a significant increase in the number of doctoral students as well as articles published in academic journals.
Talents nourishment for social progress
The development of higher education has promoted quality enhancement of the population in Macao. According to the data, the proportion of the population with a higher education level in Macao has increased from 11.06% in the initial period after the establishment of the Macao SAR to 36.43% in 2018, with an increase of more than three times. Currently, one out of three working population in Macao has obtained higher education qualification.
At the same time, our society’s demand for talents has also provided sufficient momentum for the sustainable development of Macao higher education. The findings of the surveys conducted in the past three years have shown that nearly 80% of graduates have been able to find their first full-time job within three months, and about 70% of those who have got employed expressed that the current job nature is related to their majors, and the average monthly salary of over 50% of students who have graduated for more than 3 years is higher than the median income.
Initial progress for continuous development
In the past 20 years, Macao higher education has made a certain progress. The popularization, the improvement of the systems, the simultaneous enhancement of quantity and quality, and the vibrancy of academic research activities all reveal that Macao higher education is steadily developing.
With the implementation of the new higher education regime and the gradual deepening of various regional collaboration mechanisms, Macao higher education has gained a unique development opportunity and more development space, especially in response to the relevant arrangements in the “Outline of the Development Plan for Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area”. Since Macao has now become one of the four central cities and one of the core engines for regional development in the Greater Bay Area, Macao higher education plays an essential role in boosting the development of educational collaboration, nourishing talents and promoting the construction of the “Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong-Macau” technological innovation corridor, etc. In order to seize the unique opportunity, the Macao SAR Government is negotiating with the Higher Education Committee on the medium- and long-term planning of Macao higher education so as to maximize the advantages of higher education institutions in Macao to go in line with the positioning of Macao’s development and to cultivate more outstanding talents for both the nation and Macao.