UBC approves Hong Kong dual degree program amid student equity, financial concerns

Senate has approved a new dual degree business program between the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Sauder School of Business, despite concern from student senators over the program’s cost and equity protections while students are abroad.

The four-year dual degree program allows students to earn bachelor’s degrees in both commerce and business administration. Faculty sponsor Dr. Kin Lo introduced the program proposal in November 2019 to fill a niche among “high-quality students.”

“Students are looking for a university experience that goes beyond the traditional, single-degree experience,” he said. “So they are looking for an immersive experience: two cultures on two continents, two cities and so on.”

Lo said the program is planning for its first cohort of 10 to 20 students to begin in 2021, with the possibility of increasing cohorts to 40 students in the future.

Students will spend their first and fourth years in Hong Kong and their second and third years at UBC. To fulfill their degree requirements at Sauder, students are required to take second and third-year required courses and at least 50 per cent of the credits specified within their chosen specialization whether that be accounting, finance, marketing or another option.

Individuals interested in pursuing the dual degree program will be able to apply to the UBC bachelor’s of commerce and select the dual degree with the University of Hong Kong option. An HKU–UBC Sauder Dual Degree Admissions Committee will determine program acceptance and applicants must meet the approved admission requirements in place at both institutions.

Concerns over student accessibility

Student senators were concerned about the protection of students’ human rights and academic freedoms while they are abroad for two years.

Dante Agosti-Moro, a commerce and business administration student and student senator, supports the program. However, he said in an interview with The Ubyssey that while Lo mentioned that HKU’s academic freedom statement is similar to UBC’s, the issue of academic freedom applies to all UBC dual degree programs.

“The mere existence of an academic freedom statement does not really provide guarantee on how students are going to be treated,” Agosti-Moro said.

When asked how UBC should protect students who are visible minorities or those that identify as 2SLGBTQIA+ when visiting these institutions, Agosti-Moro said that responsibility falls to faculties and Go Global with Senate supervision.

“I really believe that the Senate’s role in all of this is oversight [so] we don’t just approve these programs and then forget about it.”

Beyond academic freedom equity concerns, another concern student senators raised was how UBC is making the program financially accessible to all students. Agosti-Moro said it will be complicated for students to make living arrangements for one year in Hong Kong, followed by two years in Vancouver, and then their fourth year back in Hong Kong.

“The one-two-one program will cause even higher moving costs for students and will be much more complicated for students to make living arrangements,” he said.

In addition to Go Global financial assistance, Lo said the program is exploring travel grants for students in need to ensure that students from all backgrounds are able to participate in this program.

“We have had a very long relationship with HKU through exchange as well as other areas such as research ... [and] this program is really an extension of our relationship,” said Lo.