The Hang Seng University of Hong Kong is planning to offer courses on different Southeast Asian languages and cultures next year to help students better seize opportunities offered by the Belt and Road Initiative.

Announcing the plan to reporters on Monday, the university’s president Ho Shun-man said the move could enhance the competency of students and encourage them to explore opportunities in the region.

Ho said the university’s School of Translation would hire native speakers to offer elective courses on a regular basis. The courses will be open to undergraduate students from different majors, the university said.

Before launching these new courses, the university will seek feedback from students, teachers and industry leaders to discuss their expectations, Ho revealed.

“We need to know what kind of courses Hong Kong is lacking in and also what we are good at. This is to assess the need for courses and to predict their popularity among students,” Ho said.

Fong Wing-ho, the university’s Vice President for organisational development, said he is confident about the quality and popularity of the courses, as the School of Translation is one of the university’s founding faculties and enjoys a fine reputation.

He also saw the rising demand for talents familiar with Southeast Asian languages and cultures amid closer economic ties between Hong Kong and the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEAN is Hong Kong’s second-biggest trade partner with a prominent position along the Belt and Road. In 2017, Hong Kong and ASEAN signed a free trade agreement and a related investment agreement, marking a new milestone of the bilateral collaboration.

This year, the university also launched three new postgraduate programs to catch up with the latest trends in translation, communication and management.

These include a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication offered by the School of Communication; a Master of Science in Global Supply Chain Management offered by School of Decision Sciences; and a Master of Arts In Translation (computer-aided) offered by the School of Translation. All of these programs are now open to applicants.

In future, Ho said the university would launch more programs on art and design, insurance and smart technology.

The university, formerly known as Hang Seng Management College and Hang Seng School of Commerce, is an institution offering degrees since 2010. In October 2018, it became a private university, with approval of the SAR government.

There are 4,849 undergraduate students at the university in the 2018-19 academic year. The university’s management said on Monday the upgrade from a college to a university has added to its prestige.They, therefore, expect the school will attract more talented applicants in future.