HKUST is officially the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, but to the locals, it goes by some other names. “University of Stress and Tension” and more recently, “University of Suicides and Tragedies.” Suicide is a sensitive topic, but I think it needs to be mentioned, at minimum. The third suicide this calendar year at UST - or at least the rumors say so - occurred this morning. It is one of the highest suicide rates for universities around the world.
There is a lot of stress at this university. Even on the first day of classes, the library was half full of students already busy studying. I know people taking 8 classes this semester. There is fierce competition with the mainland Chinese, who are the cream of the crop of all of China. They take the majority of the A’s, leaving local students the B’s and C’s. At the same time, the university insists that only the top ~15-20% of students can get A’s in a class. The percentage of mainland Chinese students is the highest among the universities in Hong Kong. One local friend says that this is the root of the competition. However, there are other solutions. For example, university can introduce grade deflation to reduce the stressful atmosphere.
I do not think that the university has implemented successful measures to decrease the number of suicides. The suicide earlier this year was noted in an university-wide email, but no new measures were implemented to help students. The mental counselling on campus is insufficient. One of my friends told me that the professional was unable to help her with her problem or even help calm her feelings. Professionals who just nod cannot solve the problem.
Furthermore, the community of HKUST fails to be supportive. In my home university, students helped each other out or worked in groups to solve problem sets. Here, students try to hide the solutions from each other, concerned that their own place will fall on the curve. Professors are more interested in their research than in teaching. In this kind of atmosphere, its hard to feel welcome. It is hard to feel encouraged. It is hard to feel optimistic.
I don’t know what my place is in such issues, but I hope that there is at least discussion and a resulting action…
Originally posted on halfwayaroundtheworld.studentsgoneglobal.com.