Home > UGC Publications > Speeches and Articles > 2000 > Speech by Dr Alice LAM, JP at the Inauguration Ceremony for New Students 2000 of The University of Hong KongSpeech by Dr Alice LAM, JP at the Inauguration Ceremony for New Students 2000 of The University of Hong Kong (6.9.2000)

Speech by Dr Alice Lam, JP at the Inauguration Ceremony for New Students 2000 of The University of Hong Kong on 6 September 2000

The Acting Vice-chancellor, Distinguished Guests and the Incoming Class,

It is my great pleasure to be with you this morning. To the new students, you will remember this day for a long time, as is in my own case. 40 years ago I was sitting where you are, listening to somebody making some speech, what was said has escaped me but that feeling of eagerness and excitement is still with me today.

To the new students, I must first congratulate you on your choice. You are now admitted to one of the most renowned quality universities in Hong Kong, as well as in Asia. You should be justifiably proud and I am sure that your family, friends and teachers are happy for you as well.

University education will start a new chapter in your life. Learning will have a new meaning and there are plenty of challenges and opportunities in store for you. There is no other way to find out than exploring it yourself. Remember, education is not just learning. These few years of university life represent a golden opportunity for you to acquire the basic elements of a meaningful life: self-reliance, a life-long quest for knowledge, analytical power, fair-mindedness, compassion and the ability to share what you have with the others.

The HKU has a strong alumni and I am proud to be one of them. For me, the days of the Old Lotus Pond were long gone, but I believe romanticism and idealism, which were then so much of our campus life, has passed on from generation to generation. Just as the Main Building will forever stand tall as a symbol of this University, a HKU student's loyalty to his Alma Mater will never fade.

However, it is not exactly because I am an old girl that they have given me the chance to speak to you all. I also happen to be the Chairman of the University Grants Committee, (the UGC). The UGC advises the Government on the development needs of higher education and is at the same time the funding agency actually deciding on the amount of public money going to the universities. The beauty of the UGC system is such that, while relying on public funds for over 80% of their regular expenses, the universities do not have to haggle with Government on their financial needs. Instead, they deal with a Committee comprising community leaders and eminent academics, half of them from outside Hong Kong. Our academic members come from the most prestigious of institutions all over the world, each an accomplished scholar in his or her own right. Together their experience covers all major education systems of the world. In essence, the universities in Hong Kong are looked after by a "committee of peers" who understands institutional autonomy and academic freedom and is committed to protecting them.

I do want to go on to introduce the UGC and tell you how our unusual 3-year funding cycle ensures financial predictability in our universities so that there is no fear of interference (or ""!). But it is probably unwise to test your patience. The message I want to get across is that what you see here and what you will enjoy in the next few years cannot be possible without public subvention and a system that administers it. The resources for all this come from the community. In other words, our community is investing in you, with the hope that you will graduate as a better person, better able to appreciate life and better able to contribute. For almost 90 years now, the HKU has been making unfailing contributions to the economic and social progress of Hong Kong, providing many leaders of our society. This fine tradition has to be upheld. People like me cannot guarantee the continuation of this tradition, only you youngsters can.

Now I would like to say a few words in Cantonese.