Undecided about your major? Then this university is for you

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University introduces its new Departmental Scheme-based Admission, which allows students the freedom to choose their majors in their second year

Prospective students at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) can now enjoy more flexibility and autonomy with the university's new Departmental Scheme-based Admission. PHOTO: THE HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY

Jabed Pasha had always wanted to be an automotive engineer ever since he could remember. 

His favourite movie series? The Fast and the Furious, with special mention to 2006’s Tokyo Drift. His favourite car? The Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R. Three different models – all different sizes, but each in blazing electric blue – sit in various parts of his college dorm room.

He has always wanted to make these mechanical beasts tick, breathing life into their roaring engines and feeding power into their transmissions – what he jokingly refers to as “hardcore engineering”.

But that all changed with his admission to The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s (PolyU) Faculty of Engineering in 2019. Being exposed to different modules in the programme made him realise that maybe he didn’t want to make cars – he wanted to design them instead.  

Driven by his childhood dream to become an automotive engineer, Mr Jabed Pasha applied to the Faculty of Engineering at PolyU, where he was exposed to different modules within the programme. PHOTO: JABED PASHA

The Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in Mechanical Engineering, Mr Pasha explains, has two schemes: Mechanical Engineering and Product Analysis and Engineering Design. 

In their first year, students admitted to the Mechanical Engineering scheme take foundational courses that are common to most of the Faculty of Engineering, such as fundamentals of physics, mathematics and information technology. 

Their second year sees them take a mix of modules from both programmes, introducing students from the Mechanical Engineering scheme to modules from the Product Analysis and Engineering Design scheme, and vice versa. 

A traditional Mechanical Engineering student, Mr Pasha was first introduced to Product Analysis and Engineering Design when he took courses in visualisation and communication.

The first, in particular, involved his team analysing the specifications of a massage pillow: finding justifications for why specific parts were used, why it possessed or omitted certain features, and why these design choices were good or bad ones. 

At the end of the course, his team created a 3D model of an improved working prototype, and presented their findings to their professors and industry experts.

It was at that moment when Mr Pasha’s course of study came to a turning point.

“I realised that I actually wanted to do product design,” he recalls. “The whole time I thought I wanted to make cars. But I slowly came to realise that what really interested me was the product development process."

The new Departmental Scheme-based Admission allows students to undertake their department’s common courses in their first academic year. Major selection then only takes place in students’ second academic year. PHOTO: THE HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY

More time for self-discovery

In order to give students like Mr Pasha more flexibility in their studies at PolyU, the university is revising several aspects of its curriculum.

Recognising the importance of innovation and technology in Industry 4.0, PolyU has incorporated two new elements – Artificial Intelligence and Data Analysis and Innovation and Entrepreneurship – as part of its General University Requirement courses, which students must fulfill prior to graduation. 

Furthermore, the university is also implementing a new Departmental Scheme-based Admission for new entrants.

The admissions process is currently programme-based. In the existing system, students apply directly to and are admitted to their intended major. 

But starting from the 2022-2023 academic year, students will first apply to one of the 11 departments in PolyU, ranging from the Department of Applied Sciences to Construction and Environment, and Fashion.

After successfully enrolling in a department, they only have to undertake said department’s common courses in their first academic year. Major selection only takes place in students’ second academic year. 

For instance, an applicant accepted into the Department of Computing needs only to choose to specialise in one of the three available majors – Computer Science, Enterprise and Information Systems, or Financial Technology and Artificial Intelligence – by the beginning of their second year.

The aim of the Departmental Scheme-based Admission is to give students more time to learn more about their interests and aspirations, so as to let them make a more informed choice about their eventual major selection.

A student of the Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies, Ms Chua Hui Ying found herself at a crossroads when it came to deciding which track to specialise in. PHOTO: CHUA HUI YING

Like Mr Pasha, Chua Hui Ying found herself at a crossroads when it came time to decide her path in the Department of Chinese and Bilingual Studies.

At the time, there were three major tracks: Linguistics, Translation and Communication. Ms Chua was torn between specialising in either of the latter two. 

In the end, it was her experiences outside the classroom that ended up swaying her decision.

The first was an international business development internship at sustainable living startup Green Monday, where Ms Chua conducted research on target consumer bases in the company’s overseas markets.

Aside from establishing contacts with potential collaborators in overseas markets, a major part of her job was also helping to create material aimed at consumers in Taiwan and China, where her experience in translation came in useful.

“I would have to understand what my local colleagues were trying to convey in their initial draft presentations, and translate it into a register that was more appropriate for the target audience,” says Ms Chua.

While Ms Chua (front row; centre) is still in the process of discovering herself, she notes that her experiences outside the classroom, including an internship and research project, helped her decide her future path. PHOTO: CHUA HUI YING

She also embarked on research at the University of Hong Kong, where she interviewed foreign women on the difficulties of living in the city.

Many of them, she recalls, not only faced difficulties overcoming language barriers, but also financial issues such as not being able to afford childcare.

While very different, these two experiences made her realise that communication on the most fundamental level was something that she wanted to specialise in. 

Ms Chua is aiming for a career in corporate communications but says she is still in the process of discovering herself. 

“There are a lot of opportunities in different companies here in Hong Kong,” she says.

Even though he is opting to stay on the Mechanical Engineering track, Mr Pasha (third from left) plans to maximise his learning at PolyU and get more experience in product design via the university's wealth of research and internship opportunities. PHOTO: JABED PASHA

Interestingly, despite his earlier revelation, Mr Pasha, now in the third year of his studies, opted to stay on the Mechanical Engineering track instead of switching over to Product Analysis and Engineering Design.

“I actually think Mechanical Engineering is a better option for me right now,” he says. “Having broader-based mechanical engineering knowledge lets me be in touch with the whole line of development, like conducting research or mechanical testing, and not specifically developing a specialised product.”

Besides, he reasons, if he wanted to get more experience in product design down the line, he can do so via PolyU’s wealth of research and internship opportunities. 

To date, he has had the opportunity to intern at local startup CupHouse, designing, modelling and 3D-printing mechanical components for assistive devices for the disabled. 

He has also conducted remote research at the University of Jordan, running fluid dynamics simulations on blood flow in patients with increased arterial fatty deposits.

“That’s the thing I find best about PolyU,” he says. “There’s just so many opportunities. You want to do something? There’s a way you can do it.”

Looking to apply to The Hong Kong Polytechnic University? Admissions to the 2022/23 academic year are open until March 1. Submit your application now at

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.