Hong Kong educators and experts on Thursday are proposing leveraging the strengths of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area to train world-class professionals.
Stakeholders such as higher education institutions and professional associations in Guangdong province, Hong Kong and Macao could take a starring role in exploring new ways for training professionals in demand by the mega 11-city cluster project, which is set to rival California's Silicon Valley as the world's innovation and technology hub, they said.
Liu Ningrong, deputy director of the HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education, said professionals in accounting services, management, taxes, and legal advice are in great demand in the Bay Area, as the region, one of the economically vibrant powerhouses of China, has a large number of small and medium-sized enterprises, many of which are still in their "incubation" period.
With the spiraling demand, Hong Kong could play a bigger role in the training of high-quality professionals with international vision as that has long been the city's strong suit, Liu said.
A popular way for Hong Kong's higher education institutions to foray into the Bay Area is by establishing a branch in the region, which is what many of them did or plan to do.
In 2005, Beijing Normal University and Hong Kong Baptist University jointly set up United International College in Zhuhai, one of the Bay Area's 11 cities.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology is currently in talks with Guangzhou University to set up a new campus in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong.
But such a branch needs to be a joint venture with a mainland university, as required under the current rules.
According to a five-year plan for Shenzhen issued by the central authorities on Sunday, the central government offers more support to the city's tertiary education institutions and the city's efforts to introduce high-quality education resources from outside the mainland boundaries.
Liu says the new policy creates a good opportunity for Hong Kong and Shenzhen to explore a new possibility for jointly cultivating professionals, adding the new cooperation mode can be promoted in the whole Bay Area if the pilot programs between the two cities gain a foothold.
He suggested allowing accredited professional groups to team up with Hong Kong's education institutions to train professionals as well. But he stressed that stringent regulations are needed in order to make this cooperation mode work.
Another way to accomplish the goal is joint programs provided by mainland universities and Hong Kong universities, Liu said.
Under such programs, graduates can get degree certificates and graduation certificates from the mainland as well as Hong Kong.
In fact, pilot programs have also been tried outside the Bay Area.
In February 2019, the law school of the University of Hong Kong announced the launch of a dual bachelor's-degree program with Peking University in Beijing. Students of the program need to earn two bachelor's degrees, one at each of the universities, within five years.
"I would not be surprised if such programs become more common over the next 10 years," said Richard Cullen, a visiting law professor at the University of Hong Kong, told China Daily in an interview on Wednesday.
The demand for professionals with qualifications from both places will grow if the Bay Area ends up being an incubator for more cross-boundary legal work following more cross-border cooperation, the legal expert said.
Yan Shu, a Hong Kong engineer and professor who got his master's degree in Shanghai and his doctorate in Hong Kong, agreed such joint programs would create a favorable environment for training professionals of international vision.
Noting experience is a clincher in the career-building of architectural sector's practitioners, Yan, who is also the general manager of Huazhong United Design Consulting, said the Bay Area would be a good place to work for aspiring architects, surveyors and engineers who want to gain experience and broaden their horizons.
The young engineer himself stands a good chance of reaping gains from working in the Bay Area, as he every week spent three days in Macao and Zhuhai for work before the pandemic.