Quality Assurance & Enhancement

Teaching and Learning Strategy


Tri-modal Education Framework

HKUST’s tri-modal educational approach to undergraduate education, the transformative effect of which was commended in the second audit cycle report, underpins curriculum design. The framework focuses on (1) providing flexible curricula with cross-disciplinary offerings, (2) encouraging in-depth pursuits via honours and accelerated courses, and (3) employing active learning to cultivate innovation via discussion, engagement and team-centric, student-led experiential courses.

1. Flexible Curriculum and Cross-disciplinarity

The four-year undergraduate degree curriculum give students greater flexibility to design their own study path where they can expand their intellectual horizons in a diverse set of subjects. With such flexibility in degree requirements, it is possible for students to take up second majors across disciplines or a wide range of minor programs in addition to their first major program. On the other hand, inter-disciplinary or cross-School majors were developed to provide interdisciplinary choices for students. Examples of cross-School and inter-disciplinary majors developed over the past years:

  • BSc in Data Science and Technology
  • BSC in Mathematics and Economics
  • BSc in Integrative Systems and Design
  • BSc in Sustainable and Green Finance
  • BSc in Risk Management and Business Intelligence
  • BSc in Environmental Management and Technology

The revised Common Core Program (CCP) emphasises cross-disciplinarity, cultivates whole-person development and enhances employability. It provides a common foundation in cognitive skillsets and behavioural habits, mindsets, and well-being, broadens students’ exposure outside their main academic disciplines, and engages students in experiential learning opportunities in research, teaching, practice or an area of societal need related to Sustainable Development Goals. Introducing a competency-based scaffolded structure, the CCP reinforces strategic priorities while continuously assessing multiple competencies crucial for employability, with the focus on inter- and cross-disciplinarity being integral to broader strategic priorities.

The "Extended Major" framework provides organic study patterns with a firm grounding in traditional Majors added to an innovative extended major, which can be adapted in an agile manner to respond to societal needs for skilled human capital. The first Extended Major launched is in Artificial Intelligence which allows Engineering, Science, and Business students to complement their mainstream major. Other extended majors will be introduced through this flexible framework, subject to approval by the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Studies.

Individualized Interdisciplinary Programs for undergraduate / research postgraduate students have been developed to allow students to create their own curriculum, after working closely with faculty members, to achieve educational objectives that cannot be provided by existing majors.

2. Accelerated Courses

Accelerated courses are a key element in the tri-modal education framework that provides students with greater flexibility in managing their study pathway and also in taking greater challenges by taking courses with more rigorous academic contents that may better equip them for the pursuit of further studies or a research career in future. Accelerated courses have been developed in various subjects, both at foundation level and advanced level, to cater for students with demonstrated interests and capability to handle more rigorous academic contents and expectations of performance. Typically, the development of these accelerated courses has taken into considerations of the following elements:

  1. Mechanisms to identify and encourage suitable students to consider such courses;
  2. A curriculum that comprises special courses/sections to establish the necessary foundation to move forward more quickly and higher level courses enabling students to achieve more advanced academic outcomes;
  3. Additional demands set for graduation, possibly including a Research Option, UROP projects (or equivalent) and an individual graduating thesis;
  4. Opportunities for additional teaching, supervision and mentoring by senior faculty; e. Programs to enable these students to network and to gather for events focused on their academic and intellectual lives, possibly membership

At program level, the Integrated Bachelor-Master Pathway has been introduced to provide opportunities for accelerated learning.

3. Experiential Learning

Experiential learning may provide students with more practicum/team‐based opportunities to broaden students' professional interests and exposure, and help students across different disciplines to learn in a real-life context and stimulate their creativity. Typically, learning experiences organized within this stream consist of the following elements:

  1. Programs would last for at least a semester with assigned course codes, grant of credits (at least 3 credits are expected for these courses), agreed forms of assessment, and grading that can contribute to fulfillment of degree requirements;
  2. In order to encourage broad‐based learning and sharing of experiences, it is essential that students from all Schools can take these courses without registration barriers or pre‐requisites, with course contents specifically designed to accommodate students’ background to promote diverse and cross‐disciplinary learning;
  3. The practicum‐oriented and team‐based courses would initially be instructed by faculty members and, later, self‐directed by students with faculty members retreating as coaches, advisors, mentors, or consultants; and
  4. Experiential learning opportunities are provided by engaging students in external settings and activities such as competitions, community service projects, internships, or other endeavors. Hence, a typical course may take a Fall/Spring semester plus Summer to accomplish.

It is emphasized that the courses, as outlined above, are not to be confused with or to replace capstone courses (even though they can possibly be treated as a substitute of capstone courses) or existing co‐curricular courses. Over the past years, substantial progress has been made in integrating practicum and experiential-based opportunities into the undergraduate curriculum. Examples are increased proportions of courses feature experiential learning content; signature courses remain popular (e.g. SIGHT – ENGG 4950 Design for Global Health, runner-up for the UGC’s 2021 Team Teaching Award); some Teaching Development Grant projects to develop experiential learning courses; and some Teaching and Learning Innovation Projects featuring AR/VR and gamification have been launched.

More information on experiential learning: Experiential Learning | HKUST CEI | Center for Education Innovation

Outcome-based Education

Outcome-based education (OBE) has emerged as the standard approach to educational design in higher education since the development of the four-year degree curriculum. The core of OBE is the alignment of learning activities in a program with agreed, intended learning outcomes (ILOs) and the deployment of assessment activities that enable program teams to evaluate the program's success in achieving these outcomes. This effort has been linked to the widening of the range of desired learning outcomes beyond knowledge-oriented outcomes to include higher-order intellectual competencies, academic skills, personal competencies, citizenship, and so on.

More information on OBE: Learner-centered Course Design | HKUST CEI | Center for Education Innovation

1. Alignment of learning outcomes of programs and courses

In accordance with the guidelines of the approval of courses and programs as approved by the Senate, departments use various methods of curriculum mapping when developing new academic proposals which require, inter alia, the specification of program intended learning outcomes (PILOs) and their alignment with the program’s educational objectives; key course intended learning outcomes (CILOs) and their alignment with PILOs; the planned teaching and learning arrangements; and a mapping of assessment tasks.

UG Program and Course Administration: Approval of Programs & Changes to Programs | HKUST - Academic Registry

PG Program and Course Administration: Program/Course Guidelines and Proposals | HKUST Fok Ying Tung Graduate School

2. Graduate Attributes - ABC LIVE

Development of graduate attributes is a part of OBE that helps guiding the design of program curriculum and other learning activities for students. Graduate attributes reflect the strengths and values of an institution, and serve as an option for evaluating the effectiveness of programs via feedback from employers and alumni on whether the graduates demonstrate these attributes.

The set of graduate attributes under the acronym ABC LIVE was adopted since introduction of OBE and the four-year degree programs in 2012-13. It has provided the basis for the development of School/program/course-level statements of intended learning outcomes in curriculum design; and is underpinned by the revamped Common Core Program competency framework 

ABC for academic and LIVE for personal development, as defined below:


Academic excellence

An in-depth grasp of at least one area of specialist or professional study, based on a forward-looking curriculum and an inquiry-driven approach to learning


Broad-based education

Intellectual breadth, flexibility, and curiosity, including an understanding of the role of rational, balanced inquiry and discussion, and a grasp of the basic approach and values of the core disciplines of science, social science, engineering and the humanities 


Competencies and capacity building

High-level, transferable competencies, including analytical, critical, quantitative and communications skills 


Leadership and teamwork

A capacity for leadership and teamwork, including the ability to motivate others, to be responsible and reliable, and to give and take direction and constructive criticism 


International outlook

An international outlook, and an appreciation of cultural diversity 


Vision and an orientation to the future

Adaptability and flexibility, a passion for learning, the ability to develop clear, forward-looking goals, and the self-direction and discipline to achieve these goals 


Ethical standards and compassion

Respect for others and high standards of personal integrity

Compassion and a readiness to contribute to the community

























Graduate attributes for TPg programs are given at Guiding Principles for the Provision of Taught Postgraduate Programs (hkust.edu.hk)

3. Assessment of ILOs - Criterion referencing

The primary responsibility for maintaining internationally comparable academic standards rests with the faculty and teaching staff who design, deliver and co-ordinate courses, who set and mark assessments and who assign course grades that reflect students’ achievement of course intended learning outcomes. With the implementation of OBE, faculty should be aware of the adoption of criterion-referenced assessment (CRA) in all courses and assign grades that reflect students’ achievement of course ILOs. Some recommended good practices are:

  • Specify, at the start of a course, the nature, number, and timing of assessments (e.g. tests/ essays/ reports/ assignments/ presentations/ classroom participation/ laboratory exercises/ final examinations) and the percentage contribution of each to the overall course grade;
  • Design assessments that are sufficiently academically challenging to allow differentiation of student performance in achieving course ILOs and grades, to avoid grade inflation and maintain academic standards;
  • Design assessments that require students to apply, analyze, evaluate and synthesize information rather than recall facts or concepts which could be easily reproduced from websites or other sources.

Instructors are reminded that examinations/assessment standards should be set at appropriate difficulty levels, with grades assigned in accordance with the University’s approved definitions (Grades, Grade Points and the Achievement of ILOs | HKUST - Academic Registry) and grade descriptors for the assessment of key intended learning outcomes (Grading of Courses | HKUST - Academic Registry)


To communicate more effectively the University’s underpinning pedagogical approach to e-Learning, the e-Learning Strategy was first put forward in 2017 and was presented by the Associate Provost (Teaching and Learning) to School Board meetings and meetings with Undergraduate Coordinators in each Department/Division in early 2018. The Strategy set out the atmosphere and landscape to encourage and nourish the growth of blended learning teaching.

The Strategy lays out the vision of the University, provides the guiding principles, and also set out the KPIs, short term and long term goals to evaluate the effectiveness of the policies and strategies. E-Learning Strategy can be found at HKUST eLearning Strategy | HKUST CEI | Center for Education Innovation


As a global leader in education and research, HKUST aims to build a diversified community that contributes to the enhancement of Hong Kong’s internationalization. With an aggressive recruitment and admissions strategy, HKUST’s undergraduate population maintains a high percentage of non-local students and non-mainland students. The University strives to integrate non-local students with local students and the wider local community at large, adding value to Hong Kong’s society.

HKUST has also proactively come into agreements with non-Hong Kong institutions to offer multiple-location credit bearing courses and degrees. Students are provided substantial global study experience on campus and abroad.

Apart from the global study experience, the University is also committed to empowering students with a global outlook and multi-faceted perspectives. New course proposals require Departments to address international components in course design for approval by the Senate Committee on Undergraduate Studies.

Teaching Innovation and Resources

1. Teaching Development Grants

For UGC’s Teaching Development Grant, CEI takes the role as the secretariat in the Committee and be responsible for:

  • Call for proposals
  • Arrange for the Teaching Development Funding Committee to approve project proposals and funding
  • Track approved project progress
  • Monitor the use of approved fund
  • Provide consultations on Instructional Design
  • Assist in evaluating the learning impact of a project

Further information: Teaching and Learning Innovative Projects | HKUST CEI | Center for Education Innovation

2. Teaching Innovation

With the University’s goal of achieving effective learning by enhancing students’ motivation and active engagement through a variety of active learning pedagogies, Teaching and Learning Innovation Projects (TLIP) encourage faculty/teaching staff to initiate and experiment innovative ideas in their teaching.

By setting different themes during call for proposals, it is hoped that TLIP might help steer the direction of pedagogical development efforts to some focused areas. The latest themes include:

  • Incorporating gamification and game-based learning to enrich engagement
  • Adoption of augmented reality, virtual reality, and mixed reality technology in teaching
  • Fostering authentic learning through experiential approaches in academic courses
  • Other innovative active learning through competency-based, challenge-based, and inquiry-based pedagogies in academic courses

Further information: Teaching and Learning Innovative Projects | HKUST CEI | Center for Education Innovation

3. Institutional eLearning Platform & Tools

The University has established an institutional Learning Management platform and a number of innovative eLearning tools to enhance the teaching and learning experience at HKUST.

  • Canvas
  • Turnitin
  • iPeer
  • Mentimeter
  • iPRS

Further information: eLearning Platform and Tools | HKUST CEI | Center for Education Innovation

4. Training to Teaching Faculty

University Teaching and Learning course

CEI delivers two modules in the University Teaching and Learning course for all new Assistant Professors and lecturers: “Learning Assessment and Feedback”; and “Creating Assessment Rubrics”. Workshops and seminars on assessment are organised periodically, e.g. a workshop on designing alternative assessments, when two internationally-renowned scholars shared examples on designing alternative assessment tasks and ways to provide constructive feedback for students.

Further information: University Teaching and Learning Course | HKUST CEI | Center for Education Innovation

New faculty orientation

Faculty Orientation is an introductory program for all teaching staff who have recently joined HKUST. It is offered twice a year in August and January and specifically designed to take account of some key aspects of teaching and learning in the context of HKUST.

Further information: New Faculty Orientation | HKUST CEI | Center for Education Innovation