It may be difficult to imagine why Hong Kong needs distance education. After all, with its 6 million or so people living in such close proximity to each other, distance surely is not a problem. However, ‘distance’ can take on many forms, not just geographical, and for such reasons distance education has taken firm hold in Hong Kong, and continues to grow and flourish. This chapter outlines this growth, focusing in particular on the establishment of the Open University of Hong Kong, and highlighting emerging issues, particularly those relating to the offering of overseas distance education courses.
The major development in distance and open education in Hong Kong over the past decade has thus been the establishment and steady growth of the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong, more recently known as the Open University of Hong Kong. Clearly differing from its university counterparts in Hong Kong with respect to its student base and its mode of operation, an additional identifying feature of the OUHK is that it is the only university in Hong Kong which does not receive government funding through the University Grants Committee. Fundamentally, it is self-funding, having been provided with seeding money to get started and left to fend for itself in Hong Kong’s highly competitive distance education market-place.
Hong Kong is the vibrant and prosperous home of about 6.3 million persons and, as is well known, has recently changed status from that of a British colony to a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. Although affected by the Asian economic crisis of late 1997, it continues to act as a regional financial hub, and is emerging relatively unscathed from the economic crisis. Hong Kong’s population in general enjoys a high standard of living, with the per capita GDP being higher than most of its regional neighbours, including Australia.
As far as education is concerned, nine years of free and compulsory