When speaking of the Asian media industry, Hong Kong in particular plays an influential role and is recognised for its increasing presence in media and communications in the region. At the heart of this is Hong Kong Baptist University. Home to the School of Communication, also known as COMM, HKBU has been producing Hong Kong’s leading media professionals for decades.
Founded in 1968 as the Department of Communication, the School was established in 1991. Today, it hosts three departments, the Academy of Film, the Department of Communication Studies and the Department of Journalism, bringing together about 1,000 students each year from across the region.
The School’s influence is demonstrated by the fact that many of its early alumni hold senior positions within the Hong Kong media industry. Says Xinshu Zhao, Dean of the HKBU School of Communication: “Our alumni base is huge with around 6,000 alumni. About 60%-70% of journalists, editors and managers in the media and communications industry in Hong Kong are our alumni. They form an enthusiastic and powerful alumni support for our School and our current students.”
COMM’s popularity and prestige is founded on principles of originality, innovation and balance. This is the only academic unit in Hong Kong offering a full range of communication programmes at degree and postgraduate levels.
“We are the oldest communication school in Hong Kong, and we were also the first to adopt a communication approach in all of Asia,” explains Dean Zhao. “That was 40 years ago and even today we provide the most comprehensive and largest training in Hong Kong and in East Asia, going beyond journalism to cover advertising, PR, media arts and organizational communication.”
Innovation is a vital component for excellence and COMM has a long history of innovative thinking. Dean Zhao reveals an interesting fact: “An example of innovation is demonstrated by the fact that the Chinese name of our School is unique in communication education. The current Chinese word for communication didn’t exist at that time and our founding department head coined the word for communication in Chinese. This went on to be used in the School name which we still use today.”
Further, the School prides itself on its balanced approach to both training professionals and faculty research. While some schools focus on one or the other, COMM is one of the few that tries to balance both.
Both innovation and balance are demonstrated in COMM’s recent venture with the Centre for Media and Communication Research. While the Centre traditionally organizes conferences, a more recent project in association with COMM has added a new feature – public opinion surveys. By combining traditional forms of survey such as telephone and online interviewing with innovative methods such as data mining, the HongComm Survey Lab’s Hong Kong Media Transition Project provides a comprehensive data collection and opinion monitoring for research, teaching and learning purposes. The Survey Lab was started to facilitate support for faculty research as well as graduate research.
Providing comprehensive training is a hallmark of COMM, and this is applied to all of its academic programmes. Its BSocSc (Hons) in Communication exemplifies this ethos, offering specializations in Cinema and Television (CTV), Journalism (Broadcast Journalism, Chinese Journalism, or International Journalism), Digital Graphic Communication (DGC), Organizational Communication (ORGC), and Public Relations and Advertising (PRA).
Postgraduate offerings from the School include: MA in Communication, MA in International Journalism Studies, MSocSc in Media Management, MFA in Film, and Television and Digital Media. Research programmes with Master of Philosophy (MPhil) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) qualifications are also available.
Studying at COMM
An education at COMM provides access to global opportunities due to the School’s strong partnerships and collaborations. Students here have the opportunity to participate in exchange programmes across continents in countries such as the UK, the US and Australia, along with neighboring institutes in China and Taiwan.
A recent joint venture between US-based The Carter Center and Hong Kong Baptist University has resulted in the formation of The Carter Center-Hong Kong Baptist University this year. With a vision to develop a range of collaborative projects in education, social and humanitarian areas for the advancement of society, this venture is the first of its kind established by The Carter Center outside the US.
Dean Zhao says: “One of our exciting collaborations is with the Carter Center in the US. Jimmy Carter, the former US president who was earlier awarded an honorary degree from HKBU, was here at HKBU earlier this week to give a talk to our students. We spoke about extending our summer internships with the Carter Center in the US for the benefit of our students, and Mr Carter also inaugurated our new Carter Center HKBU initiative. Here, we will undertake projects and also be able to maintain an intake of students for internships in this new chapter. Although this is a university centre, the School of Communication was the main force behind this initiative.”
And COMM’s reach goes far beyond exchange programmes. Due to the School’s influence within the Hong Kong media industry, students find it easier to secure paid internships in areas of their choice.
“Usually there is no problem in placing our students after they graduate,” says the Dean. “While there are institutes struggling to find their students jobs, we have no problem in that area, and our graduates find jobs in fields of their choice in the media and communications industry in Hong Kong. Alumni also come back to teach our students, whether in the form of lectures, seminars or mentor-mentee programmes. Alumni also advise us in the School’s curriculum development, keeping in mind recent industry trends. And of course there is financial support from our alumni in the form of scholarships and donations.”
If you’re an aspiring media professional, studying at HKBU’s COMM will open doors not just in Asia, but across the world.