GIS education in Hong Kong from sub-degree to degree, Master and PhD levels are uniquely offered by the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for nearly 10 years.
Dr. Lilian Pun
Prof. Department of Land Surveying & Geo-Informatics, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
- What is the status of GIS education in Hong Kong?
GIS education in Hong Kong from sub-degree to degree, Master and PhD levels are uniquely offered by the Department of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University for nearly 10 years. These degrees are specific to the GIS technology and the BSc degree has also obtained professional recognition from the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors. In other universities, some GIS subjects are also included in for example, the Geography Departments, the Urban Planning and Environmental Studies, and so on. However, most of these GIS curriculum are more of application in nature.
- What according to you are the major constraints in GIS education?
Resources in terms of software and hardware and their fast development (i.e. upgrading of products, new modules) are one of the, but not the major, constraints. The major constraints are that the term GIS is still too new and unfamiliar to most Hong Kong secondary school students and their parents. Hence a lot of promotion has to be conducted in order to attract good students, especially to the undergraduate courses. Besides, professional recognition of GIS experts are still not clearly defined as in the Land Surveying side. So students may hesitate when concentrating in the GIS, rather than the Surveying profession, although these two go side by side and are much related to each other.
- What is the demand and supply situation of GIS education in Hong Kong?
As mentioned before, the degree leading specifically to GIS-related award is only offered by our University. On the demand side, each year there are always more applicants than the quotas. This is often thousands of times more and past statistics have shown that many have rated these courses (ie. BSc in Surveying and Geo-Informatics and Higher Diploma in Geomatics) in a high priority.
- How affordable are these courses at your university?
There is no similar degrees and so no competition of undergraduate courses from other universities. In this University, funding in terms of research, teachings and other related activities are in general adequate.
- What is the status of industry-institution interface and what is its impact on careers in GIS, specifically in Hong Kong?
There is very close industry-institution interface. In teachings, most of our students find jobs in the government departments (e.g. Survey and Mapping Office of the Lands Department, Civil Engineering Department, Planning Department), in GIS and surveying consultant firms, in GIS vendors. On the other hand, these departments and companies also have sent or supported their employees to come and study in our various sub-degree to post-graduate courses.
In research, there are also a number of projects conducted between academics and the industry. Besides, there are frequent contacts in many local events like seminar, conferences, workshops. As a result, we can get quite up-dated information about the GIS job market for our students. Career talks from the industry people (who may also be our past graduates) are conducted yearly and any vacancy in the GIS market are also posted/advertised in our Departmental web site.
- What are your suggestions for the development and betterment of GIS education infrastructure, specifically in Hong Kong?
Support from the vendor side in terms of hardware and software requirements are important. Also, support from the mapping authority in terms of digital land data supply (free or at a very low cost) both from Hong Kong and preferably from nearby regions in China are also very important. Besides, it would be much appreciated if GIS students and staff can take part (and so get experience) in related projects or activities. In summary, collaboration and close contacts are the major issues to consider.
- What are the various present and upcoming GIS education programmes offered by the different departments at your university?
Previously, the Department was the Centre of Land and Engineering Surveying which was set up in 1984. With the global expansion of the surveying technology to other techniques like remote sensing, digital mapping and GIS, the Centre also recognised a need for including more advanced data collection techniques and related theory in the curriculum. As a result, the BSc degree was designed and the Higher Diploma curriculum was revised. In addition to the post-graduate courses, the Centre was then become the present Department (started in 1991) in offering land surveying and geomatics courses to Hong Kong students. Now the various programmes offered are:
- Higher Diploma in Geomatics (2-year full time)
- BSc in Surveying and Geo-Informatics (3-year full time)
- MSc in Geomatics (part-time)
- Post-graduate Diploma in Geomatics (part-time)
- research degrees like MPhil, PhD
- part-time BSc in Surveying and Geo-Informatics (start in Sept. 2001)
- What is the medium of instruction in GIS Education in Hong Kong and China? Does it matter at all? Does that in any way effect the speed or quality of learning?
In Hong Kong, the medium of instruction is English as stipulated in University teaching requirement. Like all other disciplines, students with good spoken and written English normally can learn faster and more effectively and take up new ideas fairly quickly.
However, as nearly all students are non-native English speakers, problems do arise in the teaching-learning process. To remedy the situation, the University recently has taken measures to improve students English ability, like compulsory English class, an exit test of students’ English standard. However, the academic content will not be revised to a lower standard for the sake of poor English standard. Instead, students who cannot pass a subject (for whatever reasons including language ability) have to retake the subject again in the next year. In China, the medium of instruction is in Mandarin (official Chinese Language)
- There are emerging trends of e-learning. Where do you place GIS education in this context?
Yes, we do have taken the benefits of e-learning. We have established a Departmental web site and server, in which lecturers/professors may put their lecture materials (notes, diagrams, even videos etc.). The LSGI students and other staff would have access rights to these materials, and so they can prepare the lessons first before the lectures.
This is also useful for submitting assignments, communication with the lecturers and conducting discussions or even tutorials. Specifically for GIS, samples of local digital data are also put in the server for use among students and staff.
We also plan to put in other useful materials like census data, environmental data etc. so that researches or dissertation with these data become more convenient. And of course, license rights of all these accesses have to be settled first.