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Hong Kong has approved the first ever Church-run university in its territory. The Caritas Institute of Higher Education (CIHE), which runs some 36 educational institutes at all levels in Hong Kong, will be renamed as St. Francis University.
UCA News reports that the institute was approved as a university on January 9 by both the chief executive-in-council and the permanent secretary for education. Secretary of Education Christine Choi Yuk-lin called the new title a “milestone” for the Catholic institute, and Catholic education in Hong Kong. The Hong Kong diocese is said to encompass around 395,000 Catholics, about 5% of its 7.4 million population.
The addition of a Church-run university in Hong Kong has been an ambition of Cardinal Stephen Chow, Bishop of Hong Kong. As a Jesuit superior, he had unsuccessfully attempted to see a completely new university built near the border of China, in Fanling. It was only after he became Bishop of Hong Kong that he revised the idea to turn the institute into a university.
St. Francis University has become the fourth self-financing tertiary education establishment granted a university title in Hong Kong’s history, and the first run entirely by the Church. The school was launched in 1985 as the Caritas Francis Hsu College, but it began to offer sub-degree programs after it was approved as a post-secondary college in 2001. In 2011, it took on the name Caritas Institute of Higher Education after receiving accreditation to offer degree-level programs.
As a university, St. Francis will continue to offer post-secondary programs in 35 different disciplines. The fields of study vary, with social sciences, technology, and economics among the offerings to students, which currently number around 2,500.
Kim Mak Kin-wah, university president, hailed the elevation of the institute to university status. He commented on the development:
“The upgrade in the title will open up more opportunities for quality learning in tertiary education and give recognition to youths who want to develop their profession. After the name change, the university will continue to offer our distinctive curriculum.”