It was an exciting opportunity for Sri Lankan students. Not only were they able to meet an eminent Sri Lankan who is one of the top, most-cited international scientists worldwide but six of them would get the chance to intern in his laboratory.
The opportunity came when the University of Hong Kong (HKU) brought its 'Meeting of Minds' series of lectures to Sri Lanka, holding the first at the BMICH on January 8.
The first lecture on 'Confronting the threat of new emerging infections' was by none other than internationally-acclaimed Sri Lankan scientist and researcher Prof. Malik Peiris who was instrumental in identifying the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus in 2003.
The six lucky Lankan students would not only spend time in Prof. Peiris's lab at the HKU-Pasteur Research Centre where he is Scientific Director but also have the opportunity to experience other facilities of the university.
The full scholarship will cover a round-trip air-ticket to and from Hong Kong, accommodation, meals and other expenses, announced the Senior Advisor to HKU's Vice Chancellor, Prof. John A. Spinks. "While being part of an exciting university life and gaining a hands-on experience in Prof. Peiris's lab and other research labs at the university they will also experience the vibrant city," he assured. They will get to dabble in astronomy, sports, science and bio-chemistry during the five days they spend in Hong Kong, it is learnt.
Many Sri Lankan students are familiar with universities in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, even China and Russia, but few with the University of Hong Kong which has as its slogan 'Asia's Leading International University'.
HKU has been ranked as the best university in Asia by the QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) World University Rankings and Asian University Rankings as well as by the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, says Prof. Spinks, pointing out that it is 21st in the world in THE ratings and 23rd in the world in QS rankings.
Tuition fees for non-local students are kept low as HKU is a government funded university. They are currently US$ 15,000 per annum.
When you take into account livings costs and that HKU runs three-year degrees like the United Kingdom, the overall costs of a degree at HKU are a third or even lower than the costs of an education in other traditional educational destinations, according to Prof. Spinks.
This is because the university values cultural interaction which it sees as vital for the nurturing of global citizens, while taking in only the best of the best, says HKU's Country Manager for Sri Lanka, Joanna Wong, explaining that they don't want to sell education.
Among the university's 22,000 student population are 6,900 whose nationalities are not those of Hong Kong. They are from 79 nationalities across the world, with only about nine from Sri Lanka, it is understood.
When asked how HKU became 1st in Asia, Prof. Spinks says it was fortuitous to be in a part of the world which is rapidly rising economically and financially. "We are at the right place at the right time," he says stressing that HKU values high educational achievements and has outstanding students on par with any well-recognized university.
Conceding that there are not very many Sri Lankan students, he says HKU was established 100 years ago by the British to cater mainly to Chinese students. In the early days there were more Malayan students than those from Hong Kong, giving HKU an international flavour.
Advertising and promotion are not our style, he says. "Our values speak for themselves."
Calling HKU a popular student destination, he says that entry is competitive. Citing the example of Chinese students, he points out around 10,000 applications are received from mainland China for 280 undergraduate seats. We select quality students. In the last intake, there were 10 top scorers from China, the top scorer from Taiwan and straight A students from Pakistan.
(Information on HKU may be accessed on http://www.hku.hk/international and the university authorities contacted on e-mail: email@example.com)