Beyond a beautiful campus, modern teaching buildings, well-established laboratories and rich collections of library resources, universities also offer extracurricular activities to nurture the soft skills that ensure their graduates are well-rounded individuals. External activities can be professional – such as work placements or mentoring – community-based or cultural.
Here are some ways that campuses can encourage their students to look beyond their core course requirements and develop life skills, based on the experience of Macau University of Science and Technology (M.U.S.T.).
A mentorship programme can support students’ all-round development, building character, mental growth and capacity for self-motivated learning.
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In the M.U.S.T. mentor scheme, class mentors and senior students provide guidance to freshmen and other undergraduates; they offer assistance in aspects of campus life such as interpersonal relationships, law, school regulation and academic career planning. Frequent meetings are especially useful when freshmen are navigating the formalities of their first semester.
Academic mentoring, which is available for students from sophomore year to graduation, plays an active role in academic guidance, study skills and career development.
Extracurricular social activities can help students develop organisational skills, improve their social and cognitive abilities and broaden their knowledge. A diverse calendar of student social events and accessible facilities will encourage students to actively participate in extracurricular activities. M.U.S.T., for example, has a student centre with a piano and rehearsal rooms, among other things, that are open for students to use for free all year round. The Art Troupe has become a symbol of the art and culture of the university and offers students a stage to showcase their artistic talents.
Internships and entrepreneurship
University is also a good place to learn practical professional skills – including job-application expertise and business acumen – in a low-risk environment. At M.U.S.T., the Centre for Entrepreneurship and Career Planning helps students apply for internships. This process develops the competitiveness, planning abilities and preparation skills that will give students a leg-up as they enter the labour market or start careers as entrepreneurs. The centre helps students to find their strengths and expertise, to explore their potential and to establish a core value system in terms of career development.
The Student Affairs Office offers training tailored to students’ interests, as well as guidance and counselling services.
External visits, field trips and community activities can increase students’ social participation as well as broaden their knowledge of their world and enhance their communication and organisational skills.
The School of Liberal Arts (SLA) facilitates visits to M.U.S.T.-based institutions such as the State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences and the State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicine, as well as off-campus institutions such as the Macau Science Center and the Macau Youth Entrepreneurship Incubation Centre. It enables students to understand the development of Macao and its interaction and exchanges in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area under the national policy.
Competitions and cultural activities
University teams can support students to participate in professional competitions locally and abroad, offering a forum to build skills, persistence and networks.
Leadership, organisational and language skills are among the benefits to team members. Hospitality and tourism management students from M.U.S.T. found this when they won top prizes at the 2022 Pacific Asia Travel Association student talk. In giving a presentation about a travel project, the students combined textbook knowledge with practical case studies.
The Faculty of Humanities and Arts held the Return film exhibition in May. Many renowned directors, actors and film scholars offered their congratulations on the event. With great creativity and enthusiasm, the students overcame difficulties to complete short films and gained video production and storytelling skills.
The exchange experience gives students a cross-cultural perspective, and so enhances students’ creativity, helps them explore new ways of learning, develop critical-thinking skills, and improve their research and problem-solving capabilities.
M.U.S.T. encourages students to undertake overseas exchange programmes and provides long-, mid- and short-term funding for outstanding students to study abroad. It also helps students to pursue further studies or work placements abroad through recommendations and other means.
The SLA alone has received more than 200 exchange students from over 30 universities.
Internationalisation of universities themselves integrates specific local, social and cultural characteristics, models and frameworks with the experience of established foreign universities.
M.U.S.T. has established partnerships with more than 200 institutions in Europe, America, Australia, mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong in formats including educational programmes, academic research, personnel training and student exchanges. It is also a member of the Association of Universities of Asia and the Pacific (AUAP) and the International Association of Universities (IAU).
The university has recently signed an agreement with the University of Reading that will give students who study for two years at the SLA an opportunity for direct entry to part two of a business and management degree at Henley Business School. This double-degree project will broaden the horizons of both faculty and students, enriching their work/study experience and intercultural understanding.
Looking ahead, M.U.S.T. will continue to attach equal importance to teaching and research, attract talent from all fields, hold tight to the two key elements of quality and innovation, and fulfil its mission to serve its society. The university cultivates a harmonious, professional and caring campus that allows students to achieve all-round development and fulfil whole-person education.
M. C. Zhang is an assistant professor and Aliana Leong is dean and a professor, both at the School of Liberal Arts at Macau University of Science and Technology.