Hong Kong branch launch

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Launch of Hong Kong Branch, Oxford Education Society, Monday 2nd April, 2012.

The launch of the OES branch in Hong Kong, at the University of Oxford China Office in the Cosco Tower, Central, was a tremendous success, with a full audience enjoying Dr Hubert Ertl’s wide-ranging talk on higher education access and equality in Europe and China, before a member of the OES committee officially launched the branch, the first overseas branch to be created since the society’s inception in 2010.

Professor Kerry Kennedy, Dean of the Faculty of Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, which had generously supported the event, chaired the evening, beginning by saying what an interesting place Hong Kong currently is for the study of equity in education. His colleague, Professor Rupert Maclean, Director of the Institute’s Department of Education and Lifelong Learning, introduced the speakers, having played a large part in organising the event, for which the OES Committee would like to express its heartfelt thanks. As well as being a Senior Research Fellow at the Department of Education at the University of Oxford, Professor Maclean is a country champion for the society’s work in Hong Kong.

Dr Ertl, Lecturer in Higher Education at the Department of Education began his address by showing how policy changes in Western Europe meant that a focus on widening participation in higher education had recently gone into reverse. Presenting figures from the UK, France and Germany, he showed how, in each case, equity of participation by under-represented groups, an elusive goal at the best of times, was now under new pressures. In the UK, there was much tighter funding of vocational courses, from which a disproportionate number of these candidates move on to HE: in France, ’policies for unity’ had been replaced by ‘policies for excellence’: in Germany competitive bidding by universities, for what were admittedly genuine extra funds, had meant a move towards the development of elite universities in which the under-represented groups found themselves further marginalized.

China, in a seeming contrast, had seen a rapid expansion of university places in the last decade, but the funding system showed inequalities in case studies where the private colleges, though charging significantly higher fees than public universities, had significantly lower exam outcomes. These former were disproportionately attended by all the disadvantaged groups mentioned in Europe and also by an additional group, the rural students, who were under-represented in HE, thus adding a rural-urban factor to the socio-economic patterns seen also in the west.

Dr Ertl fielded a wide range of questions on disparate topics, with Professor Ngok Lee raising UNESCO-China’s involvement in attempting to bridge the rural-urban divide, while Hong Kong teacher William Kong asked about what advice to give his students on these changes, and Roger Chao Jr of the City University of Hong Kong raised the question of how local and non-local programmes compared in each of the Hong Kong and mainland China contexts.

On behalf of the OES committee, Mike Matejtschuk explained how his role as a school-based teacher-trainer and his experience of studying in the department had led him to be involved in the committee’s activities at its inception, pointing out how much we owed John Furlong and Phil Richards for the work involved in getting the society up and running. Mike gave a list of the OES’s aims, including networking (both formal and informal) professional development opportunities, the promotion and dissemination of the department’s research and providing a forum for ideas, research and debate, citing the example of Tim Brighouse’s annual lecture and Peter Newsam’s subsequent contribution to the debate on what he termed ‘totalitarian education’.

Mike stressed that membership was free and that it was offered not just to alumni but also to friends of the Department. He recommended the Society’s events and lectures, usually available in full or in summary online, the regular updates which members receive from Phil Richards, the range of activity on the Society’s facebook page – citing a recent request for research input from Aisi Li – and the comprehensive and regularly updated official website of the society.

At this point, thanking all those involved in the evening’s preparation, he declared the branch to be officially open, and those present proceeded to enjoy both further discussion of the evening’s topics and the splendid buffet and liquid refreshments, provided and organised by Jeremy, Victoria (who also took some fine photographs of the event) and the team at the University of Oxford office.

Report by Mike Matejtschuk

Download a pdf file of Dr Ertl’s presentation

Hong Kong launch photo gallery