Home > UGC Publications > Speeches and Articles > 2001 > Speech by Dr Alice Lam, Chairman, University Grants Committee at the Opening Banquet of IMHE Seminar on Leadership and Management of Universities, HK on 11 May 2001

Speech by Dr Alice Lam, Chairman, University Grants Committee at the Opening Banquet of IMHE Seminar on Leadership and Management of Universities, HK on 11 May 2001

Dear Dr Tse, Mrs Smith, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

First of all, I would like to thank Dr Daniel Tse for inviting me to this opening banquet of the IMHE Seminar on Leadership and Management of Universities. It is my pleasure to be able to meet so many top university executives from all over the world. Together you represent a wide spectrum of institutions and I would like to use this rare occasion to share with you some of my own thoughts on how the higher education system should change with times. It is my sincere hope that this can mark the beginning of a frank exchange of ideas through which we can all learn from one another.

The world is changing at an unprecedented pace. Having been a banker for more than three decades, I appreciate how critical it is for a business to adapt itself to changes. Fundamentally, an ability to know when to change and what to change has become a prerequisite to survival and success. Universities are no exception.

The higher education sector has experienced tremendous changes over the past few decades. Rapid expansion, diversification, globalisation and, to a degree, commercialization are perhaps the more obvious of the irresistible forces. Of late, issues like the IT revolution and the perpetual tension between autonomy and accountability are very much at the forefront.

Hong Kong's experience in these areas can be of some interest in this context. In 1965, when the University Grants Committee (UGC), which I chair at the moment, was established, there were two universities in Hong Kong offering about 4,000 places. Now in Hong Kong, under the UGC, there are 8 institutions with a student population of almost 70,000. In terms of age participation rate, in 35 years it has jumped from a mere 2% to 18% at present. While the higher education sector has grown in size and the participation has moved away from its elitist orientation, Hong Kong has also undergone tremendous changes during the same period -- from a light industry base to a service-oriented economy, with increasing emphasis on high-tech and knowledge. In line with these changes, the education system must re-orient itself and a degree of re-engineering becomes unavoidable at our universities. To me, economic growth and societal changes are not sustainable unless in support we have the right kind of education.

For this reason, Hong Kong is embarking on comprehensive education reform. We are conscious that our education sector has to be accountable and clear yardsticks to measure performance of the universities have to be established. In this regard, the UGC has completed the following major reviews in recent years: two Research Assessment Exercises in 1993 and 1996; the Management Review from 1998 to 1999; and the Teaching and Learning Quality Process Reviews from 1995 to 1997.

Of course, I cannot possibly have left out the 1996 Review of the Higher Education which charted the course of development of the higher education sector in subsequent years. With in view the various reform proposals currently being advanced in the education sector now, the 1996 Review needs to be revisited. To this end, I am pleased to tell you that just a few hours ago, I announced at a press conference that the UGC will conduct another review of the Hong Kong's higher education system, with particular emphasis on governance issues, at both the institutional and 'systems' levels.

Creating, transmitting and applying knowledge are the key to economic success in the new era. The increasingly globalised economy requires a workforce of different skills and aptitudes. Rightfully the community expects higher education institutions to produce the talents. As university administrators, you have important roles to play. You are the agents of change and you must lead by example.

The very fact that you have taken the trouble to attend this seminar is the best evidence that you are prepared to embrace changes. I am sure that this seminar will give you new perspectives and you will be encouraged by the commitment of your fellow participants. I wish you all a very successful event; and for those who are from outside Hong Kong, I also wish you a pleasant stay in this City of Life.

Thank you.