Meeting the ever-changing needs of the 21st century’s cities
Over recent decades, major cities across the globe, most notably in China, have been evolving and expanding at accelerating rates. This has presented much greater challenges to those charged with city governance, not only around the provision of basic services, such as health and housing, but also in areas including sustainability, climate change and air quality. The interconnectedness of these types of issues, and the increasing complexity involved in improving the overall quality of city life, mean that the range of knowledge and skills required to effectively manage cities has markedly changed.
That is why, in the autumn of 2020, Lingnan University launched its Master of Cities and Governance programme. The aim of the programme is to ready graduates for careers that engage with all aspects of urban governance and public policy in relation to cities. Given that urban authorities are increasingly recognising the need to share responsibility with other actors, these careers could be in government, or with quasi-government bodies, NGOs, think tanks or corporations – especially those corporations engaged in the development of the Greater Bay Area (GBA). In 2018, Beijing announced a framework for the development of the GBA, which encompasses Hong Kong, Macau and nine major cities in Guangdong. One of the principal drivers for establishing this masters programme was to explain how Hong Kong can be best integrated into the GBA.
An evolving and adapting programme
But like today’s metropolises, the Master of Cities and Governance is already evolving, explains Programme Director Professor Yau Yung. The programme has the scope to do this as it takes an interdisciplinary approach, pulling together input from the fields of history, business, economics, politics, social policy, sociology and science.
Along with Lingnan’s own first-class faculty, the programme benefits from access to a pool of specialists from a growing number of other universities and relevant bodies in Hong Kong, the Mainland, and countries around the world. These include the South China University of Technology, Shenzhen University, the UK’s University College London and University of Sussex, and Hong Kong’s Smart City Consortium.
Despite the current restrictions on cross-border and overseas trips, the programme has been able to use technology to successfully connect students with expert practitioners and academics beyond Hong Kong, and enable virtual visits to important locations.
The programme, which can be pursued in either a one-year full-time or two-year part-time mode, consists of the following courses:
- Cities and Social Change
- Smart and Sustainable Cities
- China and Regional Studies: Politics, Policy, and International Development
- History, Heritage and Regional Perspectives
- Housing Policy and Development
- Urban Issues and Policies: International Symposium
- Regional Policy Study and Visit in the Greater Bay Area
- Understanding Metropolitan Indicators and Social Policies
- Ageing Policies in Greater China
- Workshop for Smart Governance
In addition, students can now either choose to study the general masters programme or opt for a new Concentration in Environment and Sustainability.
Concentration in Environment and Sustainability
“We’ve seen that there is a surge in demand for experts and specialists to work in this area,” explains Prof Yau. “In Hong Kong, and in other parts of the world, when we talk about corporate governance one key issue is corporate social responsibility.”
The new concentration will provide students with a broad understanding of how environmental and social issues link to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Climate change is the subject of one course, and sustainability, in the form of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), is another focus. Every year listed companies need to compile an ESG report. On this course, students will learn how to make these assessments and how to advise companies on integrating ESG criteria into their overall strategies.
Prof Yau says that Lingnan has been able to offer this new concentration because, even though it is a liberal arts university, it has engaged new faculty for its recently opened Science Unit.
“We have also engaged a number of industry practitioners in our teaching.” These practitioners have technical and practical knowledge, and come from NGOs, interest groups such as Green Peace, ESG consultancies, or other bodies.
The new concentration will give our graduates who wish to work in this field a clearer career path and some edge when applying for positions. For example, students who wish to work for NGOs will need to know how to market their green campaigns, and these sorts of skills are among the topics taught.
The future of the programme
Prof Yau sees scope for this masters programme to dig deeper into the multi-dimensional issues that surround the vexed question of housing.
One of the most significant pressures on city governance arises from the way in which globalised capital flows have been stoking property speculation. On the Mainland, the over financialisation of housing has also been hitting the headlines. While the affordability, size and quality of housing is a major constraint on the likely success of Beijing’s promotion of three-children families. But any move to push down the price of housing in response, is sure to run into opposition from existing stakeholders.
Eventually this topic may grow too complex for incorporation into the Master of Cities and Governance, Prof Yau suggests. “We may even launch a new masters programme in the areas of housing studies or property management,” he said.
Transit-oriented development (TOD) is a mode of urban development that aims to increase access to public transport while maximizing the production of residential, commercial and other functional space within walking distance to public transport nodes. Apart from improving the liveability of cities, TOD also opens opportunities to cross-finance urban transportation and other infrastructures with the extensive property development around and on top of public transport nodes. In the video, Prof. Mok explained how a MTRC's TOD project has contributed to the building of a new development area in Hong Kong.