Home > UGC Publications > Speeches and Articles > 2004 > Letter to Hong Kong (31.1.2004)

Letter to Hong Kong

Dear Wing Yan,

Your father has told me that after doing your high school in the States, you are now thinking of coming back to Hong Kong to do your university study and wondering if it's a good idea. I think you would be making an excellent choice of coming back to Hong Kong. While I don't know what you are thinking of studying, I think our higher education system has 8 different institutions all excellent at different areas and ready to help you and your peers in pursuit of your studies, and I would like to let you know of some very exciting developments in the sector.

You will remember that about two years ago, the University Grants Committee (UGC), which I chair, produced the Higher Education Review. This Review is, if you like, the compass, and now the UGC has set out in a document its roadmap of how to achieve several of the aims in the document. Of course you know that it is the Government's policy to build up Hong Kong as Asia's World City and that Hong Kong should be the education hub of the region. Unfortunately, at the same time, the Government finances are very tough at the moment and so whatever is done in higher education must be very strategic in order to utilize the resources best. So there is a difficult balancing act here.

By implementing the strategic steps set out in this document, the UGC wants to nurture the whole higher education system in Hong Kong so that the system becomes one force in the regional and international arena. What the UGC sees is a differentiated yet interlocking system within which all the institutions operate in distinctive but collaborative and complimentary roles. In brief, the sum should be greater than the parts.

Hong Kong is too small a place to have excessive overlapping of efforts in higher education and because the Government's resources are limited, the UGC must make sure that the funds it gets are used as efficiently as possible, and maximizes collaboration and efficiency in the sector.

What I find most exciting about this new document is the emphasis on role differentiation the UGC is now making and how it is going to carry that through. I don't know whether you are aware of it, but each institution has a "role statement". The UGC had recently worked with all the institutions to refine their role statements and these now reflect much more clearly the very distinctive role that each institution has in the system. What we want to do is to ensure that institutions focus their resources and efforts on their areas of strength in accordance with their roles.

All the institutions should have excellent teaching, and must be internationally competitive. Every institution should also aim to be internationally competitive in its areas of research strength. Of course both the quantity and areas of research will vary in each institution. But the point is, each institution should think hard about what it is really good at and what it can do even better and then concentrate on those, so that there are really excellent programmes and excellent staff to help build up centres of international competitiveness in the institution.

Also, all the institutions should collaborate deeply in their areas of strength with other institutions in Hong Kong or overseas so as to enhance the whole of the Hong Kong higher education system. And naturally, we expect their staff to be engaged in public service, consultancy work, and collaborated work with the private sector with the government and business and industry. Finally, all the institutions need to manage their resources in the most effective way, and the UGC thinks there's plenty of scope for deep collaboration in that area too.

Apart from the emphasis on collaboration, what about institutions' efforts in striving to excel in their distinctive areas of strength? Well, this is where I think you can find an institution which will be able to cater for whatever career you want to pursue and cater for it in an excellent way. Are you thinking of doing liberal arts? In that case, the Lingnan University aims to be distinguished by the best liberal arts tradition from both East and West. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) both emphasize application orientated teaching professional education and applied research. Both have very interesting and different areas of specialism and expertise, such as the Design School at PolyU and the Multi-media school at CityU, etc. The Chinese University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong of course offer the widest range of programmes at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Hong Kong Baptist University emphasizes a broad based, creativity-inspiring, undergraduate education which aims to inculcate a good sense of human values in their students. They have some very interesting courses in areas like Chinese medicine. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology nurtures scientific, technological and entrepreneurial talents who will lead the transformation of traditional industries and fuel the growth of new high value added industries in the region. Finally, the Hong Kong Institute of Education could offer you a great education in preparation for career in teaching or education. It aims to nurture knowledgeable, caring and responsible teachers who will serve the needs of Hong Kong schools.

So there you are, we have eight very different institutions all excellent in their extinctive roles and all pulling together significantly to contribute to the development of Hong Kong. The UGC will be working in partnership with the institutions to sharpen this role differentiation and to make them all excellent in their respective areas. To do this, the UGC is going to play a more active role, steering the sector by putting in place mechanisms and incentives to help the institutions push forward their roles. The UGC will be doing this in a number of ways. One important way is by setting up a Restructuring and Collaboration Fund to help institutions change and to provide incentives for them to work in deep collaboration. The UGC will look very carefully at the academic programmes the institutions are proposing to do, to ensure that they are well differentiated. And in order better to assess their performance- and their performance against role- the UGC will be linking some of the funding to their performance. Finally, the UGC will be looking at where the research postgraduate places are in the institutions, to ensure that they coordinate well with the roles of the institutions.

So, Wing Yan, I think you will see it should be a very interesting and fruitful time to come back to Hong Kong and do your studies. Of course it will take some time for this to show its full effects. But you will be in the middle of a very interesting and exciting phase of development of Hong Kong's Higher Education System.

I wish you every success in your future endeavors.

Auntie Alice