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Welcoming Remarks by Chairman, UGC at the UGC Dinner cum Presentation Ceremony of the 2012 UGC Teaching Award

UGC Dinner cum Presentation Ceremony
of the 2012 UGC Teaching Award
6 September 2012
Welcoming Remarks by Chairman, UGC

Council Chairmen, Heads of Institutions, honourable guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening and a warm welcome to this special event in the UGC calendar.

This is the second year in which we will celebrate the achievement of our outstanding teachers. The purpose of the award remains the same and that is, if I may quote:

    'to honor those staff who excel in teaching in the UGC sector, and to send a very strong signal within the higher education sector and to our stakeholders that we do attach great importance to quality teaching and learning. We expect the awardees to become "ambassadors of good teaching".'

This 2012 Award could not come at a more significant time for teaching and learning in Hong Kong. Together, we are about to embark on one of the most exciting and challenging journeys in our relatively short higher education history. The 334 reforms which now culminate in the introduction of the four-year curriculum represent incalculable opportunities to re-engineer our undergraduate education, which are the envy of the world.

The opportunity to extend the curriculum will allow a broadening and enriching of the subject range, a deepening of specialist understanding and perhaps most importantly an additional year of the higher education experience for our students, many of whom will be the first in family to attend university-level institutions.

By introducing these reforms we will significantly alter the opportunities open to all of our high school students, as well as raising the aspirations of those students themselves and indeed their parents. Every high school graduate will have the chance to compete for a place.

This will be accompanied by a series of benefits which will accrue from the greater internationalisation of our campus and enhancement of the globalised outlook of our students. I want to take this opportunity here and now to quickly sketch out some of the things that UGC is doing in this area.

I hope that those of you who have heard this already will forgive me for reiterating that as Chairman I have placed two twin areas namely-

- Teaching and learning; and
- Internationalisation and engagement with Mainland China,

as the highest agenda priorities for UGC at this time and the foreseeable future.

I am pleased to report that we have made progress with these initiatives already. Our current agenda includes a range of ideas and tasks which UGC can play a role. Indeed this week we have been considering a paper titled 'Recognising and Rewarding Teaching and Learning". This has led to discussions on a number of important issues including-

- Consolidating and perhaps extending some special funding initiatives for the support and encouragement of teaching and learning;
- Encouraging discussions on the required paradigm shift from the 'teacher-in-classroom' model of facilitating learning to embrace emerging pedagogies. This will require the support and sometimes leadership of effective professional development, and indeed may involve re-training of even our more senior experienced faculty;
- Alignment quality assurance policies and audit themes, to ensure that institutions continue to make progress in recognising and rewarding excellence in teaching and learning.
- Consideration of the research-teaching nexus for students at all levels and how we might build an education component into research project applications. While education of research students is essential, undergraduate students must also be given the opportunities to be exposed to research so that they may be more inclined to pursue PhDs and the like. These are both essential for the future of Hong Kong.
- On internationalisation and engaging Mainland China, we are conducting strategic dialogues with all 8 institutions to better understand what each is doing. We need our students at all levels to be global citizens and fully prepared to embrace opportunities in Mainland and elsewhere outside Hong Kong.
- In that regard we are actively exploring how restrictions on the use of the block grant outside Hong Kong might be relaxed.

These are only small subsets of our plans.

UGC recognises that many of these ideas require modification and fine-tuning to suit each institution. But I cannot emphasise enough, how much we seek maximum institutional and faculty buy-in for these endeavours.

The influence that good teachers can bring to the students, their peers and the community is tremendous and long-lasting. Such excellence in teaching should receive the recognition it deserves. I, for one, had greatly benefited from the teaching I received and the learning I gained from my university days. Although after almost some 40 years, I may not remember a single case law that I read in those days, who I am today and what I have accomplished in business and having the fortune of serving the community and undertaking key public duties, such as the UGC Chairmanship, are all attributable to the skillset, the mindset and the approach in critical thinking that I gained from those university days.

I hope that the leaders of our institutions will continue to render their support for these important and worthwhile initiatives, and take positive steps to demonstrate that teaching quality is indeed valued and actively promoted by the institutional management. UGC notes with approval the steps that a number of institutions are taking to build assessment of Teaching and Learning into recognition and reward systems for faculty.

At the beginning of my remarks I reminded all of us of the purpose of the UGC Teaching Award today. In doing so, I spoke the words written last year by the late and greatly missed Professor Edmond Ko - a friend and mentor to myself and indeed many in this room. This award is one of the many of Edmond's legacies.

Before I pass the floor to Professor William Kirby, who will announce the Award's results, I would like to extend my warmest personal congratulations to all the nominees of the 2012 Award. You have been nominated for your outstanding performance and achievements, and the nomination itself is perhaps the most important recognition of your contribution.

I wish to take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the eight UGC-funded institutions, the Chairman and Members of the Selection Panel for making this year's Award a success once again. We look forward to continuing to work with institutions in promoting teaching excellence through this Award Scheme and other initiatives to enhance learning for our students.

Lastly, I wish you all an enjoyable and memorable evening, and wish the institutions and academics a successful academic year ahead. Thank you.