Universidade de São José - a university rich in Chinese and Portuguese characteristics

In Macau, under the influence of Portuguese administration colonial rule, education was always closely linked to the Catholic Diocese. Even after the handover to China, traces of that can still be seen Macau’s education from kindergarten up to tertiary level. The Universidade de São José (USJ), founded in 1996, might be taken as a typical example.

USJ rector, Fr. Peter Stilwell, recently announced that the construction of the new campus located by the Estrada Marginal da Ilha Verde was nearing completion and is expected to be ready for classes and other activities in a few months’ time. The entire university will move to the new location in the 2017-2018 academic year. By then, USJ will be able to offer up to 2,200 places for students, an increase of nearly 90 per cent compared to the present enrolment. This will help in providing a more comprehensive tertiary education for the community in Macau.

Illustrating by pointing at a model of the new campus, Fr. Stilwell explained that it will incorporate a considerable number of environmentally-friendly features including rooftop gardens, a rainwater collection system, and solar energy installations. He added: “As the new campus is situated in a relatively old district, we are considering opening some parts of the campus for community use, provided day-to-day operations are not affected. After all, we are a university that truly belongs to the people of Macau and we are very pleased to see that we can make contributions and give back to the community.”

Regarding what the university represents, Fr. Stilwell believes a major feature is internationalisation. “We have a close relationship with Universidade Catolica Portuguesa; some of our degrees and diplomas are conferred jointly with them,” he said. “We also have connections with institutes and universities in many Portuguese-speaking regions like Angola, Brazil and Mozambique. Exchanges are wide-ranging, covering a variety of aspects. What’s more, we have fully adopted English as the medium of instruction, supplemented by Portuguese and Chinese. This makes USJ a unique meeting point of Eastern and Western cultures. Apart from faculty members who come from around the world, the student population is also very international. This year alone, we have students from 42 countries or regions and nearly 30 per cent of them are non-Chinese. This is rather rare in Macau.”

Fr. Stilwell said that USJ offers bachelor up to doctorate degree programmes in various disciplines. The most popular courses include business administration, education, communications and media, social work, design and Chinese-Portuguese translation. These programmes have been approved by the Macau SAR government and the job placement rate one year after graduation is highly satisfactory. “The placement rate of graduates from programmes in government studies and media is well over 95 per cent, and figures for those studying business administration and social work also reach 90 per cent,” he said. “Many graduates, especially those from overseas, choose to stay on to further their studies.”

Fr. Stilwell added that USJ has a very good relationship with the Macau SAR government and has received various resources and subsidies. “Besides the development of the new campus, government support is also vital to university administration and quality enhancement,” he said. “We are among the top three tertiary institutes that receive the most funding for scientific and technological development. This is quite an achievement for a small privately-run university. When Macau’s new higher education law is passed at the end of this academic year in the middle of the year, USJ will enjoy greater flexibility and be able to introduce more programmes run jointly with overseas partners. Then, the quality as well as the diversity of our curriculum will be further improved.”