Hong Kong’s Baptist University says it is interested in relocation to new Northern Metropolis university town

Hong Kong’s Baptist University says it is interested in relocation to new Northern Metropolis university town

A university based in one of the richest areas of Hong Kong has told the government it is interested in moving its entire operation or part of it to a new academic town near the border with mainland China, a concept floated by the city’s leader last year.

Alexander Wai Ping-kong, president of Baptist University, confirmed on Thursday that the government was told last year the institution was interested in relocating from its Kowloon Tong campus, one of the city’s prime residential areas, to the Northern Metropolis university town.

“We are interested, no matter if we move our whole campus or just part of our campus,” Wai said.

He added the ball was now in the government’s court as the idea was still in the planning stage.

“We of course hope our new future campus is bigger than our current one,” Wai said. “The bigger the better, and the transport should be convenient.”

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Baptist University says it is interested in a move from its Kowloon Tong home to the new Northern Metropolis. Photo: Winson Wong

Wai said that the university would be unable to fund a move itself, and would have to rely on the government to pay for the relocation and construction of a new campus.

The university’s 5.6 hectare (13.8 acre) campus is the smallest among the city’s public universities.

Wai also reminded the government to reserve some land for it in the new border city to expand its campus, through the construction of new teaching blocks and halls of residence, if the authorities aimed to develop Hong Kong into an international hub for tertiary education.

The university town, which will cover about 60 hectares of the Northern Metropolis mega project, is expected to be completed some time after 2030 under a plan to foster collaboration with top mainland Chinese and overseas institutions.

The plan was outlined in Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s policy address last October.

The Northern Metropolis, proposed by the previous administration in 2021, will cover 30,000 hectares and be home to an international innovation and technology hub and 500,000 flats.

The university town will be designed to accommodate the expansion of public and private educational institutions.

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Wai said the decision on relocation rested with the government and on the details of the university town proposal.

He added it was up to the governing council of the university to decide the future of the Kowloon Tong campus.

But Wai emphasised the relocation idea was “very preliminary, though our university has discussed it internally”.

The university said it expected the number of non-city students in its total enrolment would not exceed the present quota of 20 per cent in the next academic year.

University Grants Committee statistics show that Baptist University admitted 943 students – 15.1 per cent of its total – from outside the city in the 2023-24 academic year.

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Albert Chau Wai-lap, the university’s vice-principal, said the new or even the present quota would not be used up in the next academic year, as the university had to maintain its teacher-student ratio, have adequate teaching staff and offices, as well as suitable classroom capacity.

“Our student hostel should also be ready before using up the quota,” Chau said.

“For us, 40 per cent means more than 2,000 non-local students. If they all live in university’s hostels, where should our local students go?”

He added an additional 1,700 hostel places would be available later this year.

Wai said he supported the move to introduce home-grown national security legislation, as mandated by Article 23 of the Basic Law, the city’s mini-constitution.

He predicted any new law would not affect the hiring of academics from overseas to work at the university.

“It is impossible for the legislation to be delayed indefinitely, and no freedom is absolute,” Wai said. “The legislation of Article 23 is also our constitutional responsibility.

“Hong Kong’s freedom of speech and academic freedom are still in very good shape. I do not see that the legislation will have an impact on freedom.”

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