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Chairman's Speech at Golden Jubilee University Presidents' Forum of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (7.12.2013)

Golden Jubilee University Presidents' Forum
The Chinese University of Hong Kong
7 December 2013

Speech by Mr Edward CHENG
Chairman, UGC

Vice Chancellor Professor Joseph Sung, Vice Chancellors and Presidents of eminent universities from around the World, distinguished guests,

I am honoured to be invited to give an address at this Golden Jubilee Presidents' Forum in recognition of this important milestone in the life of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Let me begin by offering my heartiest congratulation to CUHK in reaching this significant anniversary. In its short history, the University has succeeded in establishing its remarkable reputation as a leading university - locally here in Hong Kong and the Mainland; regionally in Asia; and globally throughout the World. It is a marvelous achievement in a relatively short time and which is the envy of many, but replicated by very, very few.

There are many qualities that have distinguished Chinese University's first 50 years but I would like to pick out one in particular and that is leadership. It is perhaps appropriate for me to say at this Presidents' Forum, that CUHK has been notable for the dedication and capability of its seven Vice-Chancellors. All seven brought CUHK forward- through starting new programmes and setting up of new schools in response to evolving social needs; establishing new connections and partnerships all around the world; as well as the constant review and improvement of institutional governance.

All seven Vice-Chancellors are accomplished individuals who have engendered significant progress in the society and even the world. Those leaders of this institution, past and present, have really made us proud- as a CUHK ally, as a Hong Kong citizen and as a partner in the higher education sector. I can safely say without challenge in this gathering, that the role of the Presidents has been crucial in the marked success of CUHK in the past 50 years.

Given the international theme of today's conference 'Enhancing Intercultural and Multicultural Exchanges in Universities' and the strong UGC presence among the distinguished speakers and equally distinguished audience, I would wish to take this opportunity to ask you to consider a number of issues, during your deliberations. These are exercising myself and my colleagues at the UGC and all of which are related to topics which fall under the scope of today's overarching theme. These are current concerns in Hong Kong and they are not new questions. I will try to relate them, albeit briefly, to our three keynote addresses.

Let me begin at the global level. I share the concern of Dr Wise that higher education must play a significant part in preparing our students for their role as global citizens. This is a concern for Hong Kong as well. Certainly we can facilitate intercultural and multicultural exchanges. Once upon a time that may have been as much as we could do. But I think that we all recognize that the world is becoming smaller. This is due to a number of technological advances not least of which is the development and penetration of the internet, especially during these last ten years. This has had a number of significant effects on higher education. The first is to heighten the significance of educating global citizens; the smaller the world- the greater the need. The second is the impact on the education curriculum. I assume that in these last twenty years we need to devote less and less learning time on memorizing content and more on how to apply knowledge. With Google literally at our fingertips, we have more space in the curriculum for say critical thinking and, of course, general education including the arts and humanities. Thirdly, there is the impact of the digital revolution on the delivery of, and participation in, learning itself. If you put all of these together with the additional fourth year of the new curriculum that we have recently introduced in Hong Kong UGC sector, you get the 'perfect storm' of opportunity on a much larger scale to truly prepare our next generation of graduates for the global challenges ahead. If done well, Hong Kong will maintain its cutting edge and punch well above its weight.

Moving from a global level to that of the region and in particular the Mainland, many of the same points apply. President Zhang Jie's title mentions China and the World. What better place to discuss this topic than at the Chinese University here in Hong Kong! Hong Kong has long been known as the place where East meets West. This gives higher education both in Hong Kong and the Mainland, great opportunities to collaborate and share resources - human, financial, physical. This also becomes a major attraction for the investment of talent from the rest of the world; both students and faculty. The challenge is how do we extend this further, and better consolidate. Again, our four year curriculum brings many opportunities for internship exchanges and the like. We must also empower our faculty with Hong Kong and Mainland backgrounds, irrespective of their current location, to share their knowledge with their counterparts. This is how the partnership can be taken to new levels to the advantage of both Hong Kong and the Mainland. Also it will consolidate Hong Kong's role as the 'come to place' where East meets West.

Which brings me - neatly I hope - to some thoughts about partnerships and collaborations involving the higher education sector, governments and the community. I believe, passionately, that higher education must engage with the real world and it must emulate some real world practices. I also believe the need to compete strongly and at the same time collaborate, and those groups of institutions or small sectors, like Hong Kong, who practice this philosophy, will succeed over those who simply compete.

Universities who rely substantially on the public purse must always be mindful of community and government expectations. Of course, the educational mission prepares students to be well rounded individuals, local and global citizens, community leaders and the like; but also entrepreneurs, employees, creators and contributors to economic prosperity.

Similarly with research, we must also be mindful of knowledge transfer, downstream application as well as value added to human capital. Here in Hong Kong entrepreneurship is in our culture - hardwired into our very DNA. We must retain and even further develop that natural advantage.

How do university leaders better communicate those ideas to convince society of the value of what higher education achieves? I will leave it to Professor Hamilton to tell us. (He will join UGC on 1st January so he can begin his tenure now!)

Distinguished guests, I am sure that these questions concern many of you too, in one form or another, in your universities and sectors. Please let us help each other and, if we can focus on these points as we listen to our keynote addresses and discuss and debate the valuable knowledge and insight therein, we may all assist with the overall themes and objectives of this forum. Here in Hong Kong we are passionate about improving our higher education sector. We value it greatly and we believe it to be our edge over most of our economic competitors. We need to maintain and develop it even further to stay ahead.

So let me close by wishing you all a successful discussion forum and once again to the Chinese University of Hong Kong, congratulations and best wishes for the next fifty years and many more beyond.

Thank you.