It was something of a bittersweet experience, the one that more than four hundred students from the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) had to endure while coming to the conclusion of their academic year as undergraduates. The ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, one that since mid-June has kept the city languishing in uncertainty, no longer affected classes or exams at Macau’s Catholic university, but it forced, nevertheless, USJ to suspend all face-to-face activities and to postpone the graduation ceremony of the eligible students who have completed their respective degrees.
All in all, 427 students recently graduated or completed a new stage of their academic career. For most, what follows is an inevitable invitation for rolling-up their sleeves, as they prepare to approach an increasingly demanding job market. The courses being taught by USJ, Rev. Prof. Stephen Morgan, claims, have always been met with higher than average guarantees of employability, but the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting economic fallout turned the tables on those who are preparing to start professional careers. “The job market in Macau at the moment is extremely tough, which is hardly surprising given two and a half years of the pandemic control measures and the current outbreak of Covid,” states Rev. Prof. Morgan. The rector of USJ continues, saying, “In previous years, we have seen about 80 per cent of our graduates working within six months and perhaps two thirds of the remainder going on to further studies. Our internship programs contribute to such a high proportion of graduates finding employment. We won’t know before Christmas how it has worked out this year, but Macau employers tell me that they find USJ graduates amongst those most ready for the workplace.”
Given the current economic situation, Rev. Prof. Morgan does not exclude the possibility that the number of students interested in pursuing their academic formation could skyrocket. In each new wave of graduates, there is always a small batch that exhibits an interest in pursuing an academic career, and the unpredictability associated with Covid-19 may have accentuated this trend. Born in Wales, the academic hopes that the master’s and doctoral courses on offer at USJ will arouse a greater interest and a greater demand. Concerning bachelor’s degrees and postgraduate programs, the number should remain close to the ones recorded in the last academic year. “We always have a number of graduates who go on to do their master’s degrees and postgraduates who go on to become doctoral candidates. This year is no different here. In addition, one or two of our doctoral graduates have joined the University as academic staff,” Rev. Prof. Morgan tells us.
He goes on to say, “I expect us to enroll more students at the master’s and doctoral level. At the bachelor’s and postgraduate diploma level, the number will be similar to those registered last year.”
The academic year 2022/23 should be a year for consolidation rather than innovation for USJ. After being granted authorization by the Chinese authorities to recruit students on the other side of the Border Gate in September last year, the higher education institution, affiliated to the Catholic Diocese of Macau, is currently undergoing a mandatory revision of the programs it offers. Rev. Prof. Morgan reserves eventual novelties for September 2023. He says, “We are currently undergoing a compulsory review and revision of our programs. The Higher Education Law means that all universities in Macau have to do this and that process takes time. I hope this could mean that by September 2023 about half our existing programs will look substantially different and we will have perhaps three or four new programs.”
Earlier this year, USJ enrolled the first students from Mainland China. In September 2021, the Catholic-inspired University announced that it had received the green light from Chinese authorities to recruit and enroll students from the People’s Republic of China in graduate programs such as Architecture, Science, Business Administration and Information Systems.
Starting from September, Macau’s Catholic university will have, amongst its ranks, thirty students from the People’s Republic of China. More than the number, Rev. Prof. Morgan is emphatic that it is the quality of the students recruited in Mainland China that makes the difference and adds value to the University itself. He says, “We have already filled our quota for the coming year and could easily have filled it five or six times over. The quality of the thirty students who will be joining us in September is very high indeed, and I know that they will have a positive influence in proportion to their number out of all the students. The four students who joined us partway through the year are already having an impact. “They are a joy to teach and take part in university life with great enthusiasm,” the rector of USJ concludes.