Home > UGC Publications > Speeches and Articles > 2004 > University Presidents' Global Forum 2004 Address by Dr Alice Lam (10.5.2004)

University Presidents' Global Forum 2004 Address by Dr Alice Lam

Dr Cheng, Prof King, Presidents and Distinguished Guests,

I am very pleased to attend the Opening Ceremony of this University Presidents' Global Forum, with the presence of Heads of so many highly celebrated universities around the world. Looking at the list of attendees - and at you - I must say I am reminded of the film title "All the President's Men", since there does seem to be a preponderance of that gender amongst you! Perhaps this is a suitable topic for discussion over the next couple of days?

More seriously, in the next two days, exchanges in the Forum will be centred round the main theme of "Universities in the 21st Century". As we are all aware, many parts of the world have been reviewing their higher education systems, in one way or another, better to position themselves for the changes and challenges in the 21st century. I think the belief we all share is that, because of the rapid expansion of the knowledge boundary and the advances in the application of information technology, higher education simply cannot afford to maintain the status quo and must move with the times. Hong Kong is no exception in having to face these challenges.

Wider participation has been - and remains - a key theme for many societies. In Hong Kong the enrolment, in terms of proportion of the relevant age-group, has increased from a far too low 2.2% in the late 1970s to nearly 18% at present. Our Chief Executive has set the policy objective of enabling 60% of our senior secondary school leavers to receive post-secondary education by 2010 - and we have already achieved 48%. As a key source of impetus for social development, there is an increasing need for our higher education system to provide the depth and breadth of people who can participate in making Hong Kong a vibrant, economically powerful, cultured, and socially active society.

In addition, the Government's vision to make Hong Kong "Asia's world city" and "the education hub of the region", has called for a deeper rethink of how we can enhance our higher education as a whole and achieve excellence in all areas of strength.

The UGC has been described as a buffer which stands between the Government and the institutions. I feel we are constantly being buffered by both sides - but I guess that is part of the job. Our role, on the one hand, is to protect institutions from interference by the Administration with their internal management, and on the other to ensure that the institutions remain responsible to the society which provides their mandate and funding. As an important stakeholder of higher education, the UGC also needs constantly to review its role to meet the ever-changing demands of the wider community. The Higher Education Review in 2002 and the Roadmap Document we published in January 2004 - "To make a Difference, To move with the Times" have articulated a more proactive role for the UGC in steering the sector.

At the system level in achieving these goals, we need strategies and directions to be developed in a coherent and balanced manner. In the context of drawing up the Roadmap Document, we worked with all our institutions and undertook a review of their role statements which now spell out both their fundamental responsibilities as higher education providers, as well as their distinctive features. I have been very pleased to have the strong support of the Heads of the eight institutions within the umbrella of the UGC for this articulation of their roles and ours. In early March, we also published our report on institutional integration. This was produced as a result of a study led by my colleague John Niland, who is in the audience today, in which we have laid down a major direction to encourage deep collaboration among institutions. A funding exercise is also being undertaken by the UGC to deepen our effort in promoting role-differentiation and recognizing good performance according to role. I am therefore most interested to see that the subject of the Special Lecture later this morning is on "The Impact of Performance Measurement". I am sure it will be most insightful.

All these initiatives are aimed at achieving teaching and research excellence, within role, with high efficiency across our higher education sector as a whole. I am confident that with the close partnership between the UGC and our institutions, we will be able to see an interlocking yet differentiated landscape of higher education in Hong Kong in the future.

Friends, Hong Kong has a small higher education system. But we try to draw from the best of sectors all round the world - and have a unique relationship with Mainland China. I think together we have much to share and to learn from each other. Several fascinating subjects will be pondered in this forum, and I am sure your great minds will generate a lot of insightful and visionary thoughts. Once again, I congratulate the Chinese University of Hong Kong on this successful occasion, and I wish all participants a fruitful stay in Hong Kong.

Thank you.