Home > UGC Publications > Speeches and Articles > 2004 > Signing Ceremony of Memorandum of Understanding on the Formation of the Joint Centre for Advanced Study (10.9.2004)

Signing Ceremony of Memorandum of Understanding on the Formation of the Joint Centre for Advanced Study

10 September 2004, Friday 11:00 am
Room 218, Main Building, University of Hong Kong

Speech by Dr Alice Lam

Professor Tsui, Professor Chu, Professor Lau, distinguished guests,

I am honoured to attend this signing ceremony of the Memorandum of Understanding on the formation of the Joint Centre for Advanced Study. I would like to congratulate the three universities for taking this significant step for the benefit of the higher education sector in Hong Kong. Together, you represent a determination and a commitment to ensure that our students can have the best of three worlds.

As we stated in the Higher Education Review Report, it is difficult to achieve critical mass and hence international excellence, if there is excessive duplication of resources and efforts. This is particularly an issue that warrants attention in the face of financial challenges and international competition. In addition to addressing budget stringency, the UGC and the institutions have a responsibility to ensure effective use of public funding in order to achieve the greatest possible impact for the positive growth and development of the higher education sector.

In January and March this year, we published two key documents designed to develop an interlocking yet differentiated higher education sector with a major direction to encourage deep collaboration among institutions. We believe that institutional integration will bring about the best results if it is driven by the institutions themselves - which is clearly illustrated in this case. Nevertheless, the UGC can play a facilitating role in the process. We are now actively encouraging deep collaborative relationships among institutions. One of our initiatives is the Restructuring and Collaboration Fund to support institutions' proposals on collaborative activities. And I am pleased to see the responsible position taken by the three institutions that they are not - yet! - asking for any financial assistance.

Hong Kong is a small place and we have a small higher education system. But just as Hong Kong has built a strong economy, I firmly believe that we can achieve teaching and research excellence beyond our size. This can be greatly assisted by developing an interlocking yet differentiated landscape of higher education.

I believe it was Adam Smith who wrote on the importance of specialization and division of labour as being fundamental building blocks of economic life - but not being an economist, no doubt Professor Lau will correct me if I am wrong. Such a system yields enormous economic benefits. But for specialization and division of labour to get going, one needs reciprocity. Our economic system works because we have effective rules and systems that make reciprocity go a long way.

Co-operation might nonetheless break down if sound governing structures are not in place to ensure that every participant chooses paths that are beneficial not only to themselves, but to the common good as well. Today, the three institutions have laid the foundation of deep collaboration among themselves in the area of advanced study. I see great potential - but also a lot of hard work ahead of us before we can reap the rewards.

In the past decade or so, we have not seen sufficient real collaboration among institutions in their respective efforts in achieving academic excellence. This is now beginning to change. Owing to the efforts of all those involved, some collaborative projects are taking place and more are in the pipeline. This Joint Centre will, I hope, help to establish a culture of deep collaboration and pave the way for even stronger ties among the institutions.

So, let me say again how pleased I am that HKU, CUHK and UST have taken this step. It is an important one for Hong Kong.

Thank you.