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Welcoming Remarks by Chairman, UGC at the UGC Dinner cum Presentation Ceremony of the 2013 UGC Teaching Award (5.9.2013)

UGC Dinner cum Presentation Ceremony
of the UGC Teaching Award
5 September 2013

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 which I believe to be one of the most important dates in the UGC calendar.

2. This is my once a year opportunity to share with you, the standard bearers of our higher education in Hong Kong, my humble opinion, that higher education is just as much striving for research excellence as advocating the importance of teaching; all for the learning of our undergraduate students.

3. At this point in time, our work in both teaching and research must be read in the context of 334 which remains our focus for the foreseeable future. Research and teaching go hand in hand together and thus drive the great opportunity that we have to make a real difference for our students.

4. This past year we have listened to the voices of various 334 stakeholders. On the plus side, both new students and faculty welcome the opportunities brought about by the broader first year curriculum and the willingness of the new students to challenge ideas and engage in discussion. On the minus side, the younger cohorts are less mature and have less capability in terms of core skills such as maths and languages.

5. In this regard, we cannot just shake our heads or wring our hands. We must adapt and equip our faculty members to modify their approach, where necessary, to make sure that these younger cohorts are able to benefit from the great opportunity afforded to them by 334.

6. As we progress through the 334 implementation, each year must build on the previous one and we must learn from what has gone before. This needs to be done until 334 is the new normal; until it is entrenched into our thinking and our systems. What we are doing with 334 especially the transformation from 3 to 4 year undergraduate degree is unprecedented even on an international scale. It is a great privilege that we have been given and we must see it through for as long as it takes.

7. I want to move on to different yet related topics which most of you here know have been high on UGC's agenda these last few years. These are Teaching and Learning as well as Internationalisation and Engagement with Mainland China. Tonight I want to seek your help with the further embedding of these two vital areas into our 334 endeavours.

8. All of us here know that the world is changing- it is becoming smaller, flatter and much more interconnected. So everyone needs to become globally aware, to live a fully enriched live personally, socially and economically. Further, the pace of pedagogical change is accelerating and we must stay ahead of the curve to retain our higher education leadership position and drive through the potential that 334 has given us. I will talk later of some funding initiatives that I want to share with you.

9. Let me start first with the Internationalisation and Engagement with the Mainland issue. I am sure all of us here know that this is the right direction to take. But this is not as well understood in all corners of our community. All of us must strive to better explain the benefits of internationalisation and engagement with the Mainland to our society. Our graduates need to be globally aware and cross-culturally adept citizens. They need to be mobile both horizontally as well as vertically. International and Mainland students on our campuses, exchange opportunities overseas and the like, enrich lives and add value to individuals as well as society. It is far from a zero sum game. We must get that message across. With the extra headroom that 334 gives us, we can truly make a difference but we do need to explain this better.

10. On teaching and learning we have seen an accelerating pace of change in the last couple of years. Some have argued that these new technology enhancement, and blended learning pedagogies, sound the death knell of universities as we know them. Others believe that universities can adapt and survive. Whichever view you take, there is no doubt that change is taking place and Hong Kong must keep up. Our higher education institutions are highly regarded but the competition is fierce especially from our regional neighbours and the Mainland. We must stay ahead of the curve.

11. Which leads me to what UGC can do. We are after all only a funding body. We have therefore put together two tripartite funding packages to support projects in these key areas. (Tripartite meaning funding from the Education Bureau, UGC and the participating institutions). The purpose is to stimulate new initiatives, creative ideas, out of the box thinking and thus be a catalyst for successes which lead to sustainable funding and potential policy changes. So these will be basic "R&D funds" for Teaching and Learning as well as Internationalisation and Engagement with Mainland China. Other stipulations include that to be successful, proposals will be subject to a competitive process; projects with collaborative elements will be favoured and all of the outcomes will be shared. Hong Kong is such a small sector that we must share in order to gain more mileage out of the same amount of scarce resource.

12. I am confident that our institutions and our teachers will respond to the challenges and opportunities that these special funds bring. Essentially they will allow us to find new ways to stay ahead, to ensure that we maximise all of the opportunities that 334 gives us for the sake of our young people.

13. All of the awardees and nominees for the 2013 UGC Teaching Award here tonight are excellent candidates for successful project proposals. I do hope that you will consider participating in these new initiatives.

14. It is now time for me to extend to all awardees and nominees my warmest congratulations. All awardees as well as nominees are representatives of their colleagues, dedicated teachers of the UGC sector whose work we honour and celebrate tonight. Receiving the nominations from your respective institutions itself is already an important recognition of your excellent work. For the awardees of the UGC Teaching Award, you will become our "ambassadors of good teaching" and I know that you will continue to make a real and sustained impact in promoting teaching excellence within and across institutions.

15. Before I pass the floor to Professor William Kirby, who will announce this year's results, 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 for the benefits of our students.

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