Teaching and Learning at The University of Hong Kong HKU

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Exploring Issues of
Profound Significance to Humankind

Common Core

The HKU Common Core Curriculum is conceptualized on the basis of the motto of HKU – 明德格物 (mingde gewu; illustrious virtue and investigation of things) – which corresponds to the Latin motto “Sapientia et virtus” (Wisdom and Virtue), and the essence of university education, 大學 (daxue; “Great Learning”), which embodies the renewal of the individual and the achievement of the highest good.

To celebrate the full launch of the Common Core Curriculum, the Common Core Curriculum Committee held a distinguished lecture series in 2012-13 which consisted of five lectures delivered by world-renowned scholars. These lectures provided an overview of the role of the Common Core Curriculum in the undergraduate curriculum and an examination of some of the key issues in each of the Areas of Inquiry (AoIs).


What are the goals?

  • To enable students to develop a broader perspective and a critical understanding of the complexities and the interconnectedness of the issues that they are confronted with in their everyday lives
  • To cultivate students’ appreciation of their own culture and other cultures, and the inter-relatedness among cultures
  • To enable students to see themselves as members of global as well as local communities and to play an active role as responsible individuals and citizens in these communities
  • To enable students to develop the key intellectual skills that will be further enhanced in their disciplinary studies

What will students study?

The Common Core Curriculum aims to help students see the interconnectedness and interdependent nature of human existence through exploring the following common human experiences:

  • The aesthetic (or symbolic) ex-pressions of ideas and emotions
  • The relationship between individuals and communities, and the role of the former in the latter
  • The interaction amongst communities on various scales
  • The relationships and interdependencies between human beings, science, technology and nature
  • The beliefs and values that are essential to human bonding and to mediating tensions within and between groups
  • The relationship between our past, present and future

How is it structured?

The Common Core Curriculum is divided into four Areas of Inquiry to enable students to explore a range of common human experiences. Each area offers numerous courses. The Areas of Inquiry are:

  • Scientific and Technological Literacy
  • Humanities
  • Global Issues
  • China: Culture State and Society

Learn more about the Areas of Inquiry and Key Themes
Courses on Offer for 2010, 2011 and 2012


What will students learn?

While the Common Core Curriculum as a whole will engage students in an exploration of issues of profound significance in relation to a number of fundamental human experiences, the detail of what they will learn will vary from course to course. Hence, each course has its own set of learning outcomes. These learning outcomes are statements that specify precisely what students should be able to do at the end of a course, usually expressed as knowledge, skills, or attitudes.


How will students learn?

Student workload hours for a 6-credit course amount to 120-180 hours. Common Core courses normally consist of 36 contact hours, with a 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial per week. Within these sessions, students may have first-hand encounters with their subjects of study, be asked to solve problems, or be asked to decide on issues they wish to investigate. The remainder of the hours will be made up through engaging in a number of other relevant learning activities including reading, self-study, fieldwork, visits, group projects, research, and exam preparation.

Learn more about the Student Experience


Why are tutorials important?

Tutorials are an essential and compulsory element of study in the Common Core Curriculum. Tutorials will normally be conducted weekly in groups of no more than 12 students. The purpose of tutorials is to provide a context for students to clarify and deepen their understanding of ideas and issues arising from the course through dialogue with others in an interactive setting. Additionally, tutorials offer an environment for students to improve their communication skills and develop their confidence.


How will students be assessed?

Common Core courses utilize diverse modes of assessment. As well as the more traditional exams, tests and quizzes, students are likely to be required to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in a variety of other ways, for example, by keeping a journal to reflect on lectures and readings, making a movie, engaging in fieldwork, undertaking research, constructing a website or doing group projects and presentations.


What is required?

3-Year Curriculum from 2010

Under the (3-year) 2010 curriculum, students are required to complete two 6-credit Common Core courses, chosen from two different Areas of Inquiry, normally in their first year of study, except for the following groups of students:

  • MBBS students, for whom Senate has approved that the Special Study Module of the MBBS be accepted to satisfy 6 credits of the required 12 credits Common Core requirements;
  • students of part-time undergraduate curricula, who are exempted from the Common Core requirements.

For students taking double degrees under the 2010 curriculum, Advanced Standing will be granted in respect of the 12 credits of Common Core courses for the second curriculum of the double degrees if they have already completed them successfully in the first curriculum.

4-Year Curriculum from 2012

Under the new 4-year curriculum to be implemented in 2012, students will be required to complete six Common Core courses normally within the first three years. They will have to take six six-credit courses from the four AoIs, with a minimum of one course and a maximum of two courses under each AoI. They can select courses from any theme under each AoI. Credits gained by taking the Common Core courses cannot be counted towards the major/minor requirements or vice versa. Courses offered under different AoIs in which there is considerable overlap of issues covered will be listed as non-permissible combinations, and students will not be permitted to take more than one course in those combinations.


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