The Department of Applied Social Sciences (APSS), PolyU, in collaboration with the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at The University of Chicago and the Department of Sociology at Peking University (PKU), successfully conducted the Winter Institute 2023. From 4 to 16 December 2023, the Winter Institute took place in Hong Kong, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City. The Winter Institute hosted 24 postgraduate students and four faculty members from the three participating universities, including Prof. Ben KU, Director of China and Global Development Network and Professor of APSS, Dr Qiaobing WU, Associate Head and Associate Professor of APSS, Prof. Robert CHASKIN, the McCormick Foundation Professor and Faculty Director of the Susan and Richard Kiphart Center for Global Health and Social Development at the University of Chicago Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice, and Prof. Yuegen XIONG, Professor of the Department of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Social Policy Research at Peking University.
The two-week programme kicked off in PolyU. Following the lectures provided by Dr Vincent CHENG and Mr Vincent YEUNG of APSS, students examined issues of social class, poverty, and inequality from historical and socio-economic perspectives. Enriching the group discussions, students also actively shared relevant observations and experiences from their home countries (i.e., China, the United States of America, and Vietnam).
After Hong Kong, participants travelled together to Vietnam to continue the programme. In Vietnam, students attended lectures provided by the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, VNU Hanoi and the University of Labour and Social Affairs (Campus 2). The lectures focused on social security policies, migration, livelihood changes, and an in-depth exploration of Vietnamese society and cities. Students also witnessed the impactful work of NGOs and social enterprises that focused on, for example, promoting the well-being of disabled individuals, improving the livelihoods of local farmers, and empowering rural women. Furthermore, they engaged with organisations that supported disadvantaged children and took part in a community walk led by local students.
Supported by the tripartite collaboration, the Winter Institute offered an immersive learning experience with lectures, discussions, and site visits in Hong Kong, Hanoi, and Ho Chi Minh City. During the Winter Institute, students conducted group seminar presentations, which summarised and compared demographic features and social welfare policies across the three countries. They shared reflections on lectures and the site visits, emphasising the significance of cross-cultural and comparative approaches in addressing poverty and inequality.
Overall, the Winter Institute 2023 exemplifies the successful tripartite collaboration between the participating universities. It deepened students’ understanding of social welfare policies in diverse national and local contexts, and enriched their overall learning experience.