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Remarks by Chairperson, 2014 UGC Teaching Award Selection Panel at the UGC Dinner cum Presentation Ceremony of the 2014 UGC Teaching Award (10.9.2014)

UGC Dinner cum Presentation Ceremony
of the 2014 UGC Teaching Award
10 September 2014

Remarks by Prof William Kirby
Chairperson, 2014 UGC Teaching Award Selection Panel

Edward, Council Chairmen, Heads, ladies and gentlemen,

Good evening.

2. I am delighted to be here again to take up this important task of chairing the Selection Panel of the UGC Teaching Award. Tonight, we celebrate the outstanding teaching achievements of faculty members.

3. Normally universities such as ours celebrate about all accomplishments in research, for it is research that largely determines the rankings that determine the rise and fall of institutions these days. But rankings rank only what can be measured. They emphasize research publication in select international journals, and they studiously ignore what distinguishes a university from a stand-alone research institution, for they pay no attention to teaching, to education, to mentorship, and to impact of great teachers on the lives of their students and the broader community. Yet anyone who has ever taught - and I think that includes most of the people in this room, knows that one of our greatest rewards is to see our impact on our students, both in the classroom and in later life.

4. So we are here to celebrate teaching and to honor great teachers. The universities here in Hong Kong are blessed with great teachers, and in this competition over the last four years we have met but a small percentage of them. But we have met - and you are about to meet, truly extraordinary educators.

5. In this we have been supported by the hard work of the eight UGC-funded institutions, from which we received 16 nominations this year. These sixteen are in some sense all winners already, for in being nominated they have the strong support of their colleagues, their administration, and of course their students. And we like to think that they are the representatives of all their colleagues - dedicated teachers of the UGC sector whose work we honor and celebrate tonight.

6. Our Selection Panel has been deeply impressed by the nominees' commitment and drive in pursuing teaching excellence. It is certainly not an easy task to select the best among them. I must thank my colleagues in the Selection Panel - Prof Paul Blackmore, Mr Tommy Cheung, Prof Adrian Dixon and Prof Alan Lau for their support and hard work.

7. The Selection Panel had long and thorough discussions before reaching a consensus on the three awardees whom we honor tonight. The awardees have inspired their students and engaged them in learning with energy and enthusiasm. They have also demonstrated leadership in teaching within and across institutions. And each one has come up with great ideas of how to spend the vast sums of money they are about to receive. We look forward to seeing their grant initiatives be put into action, rewarding their institutions and the entire UGC sector in teaching and learning.

8. Without further ado, let me now announce the 2014 awardees:

  • First, Prof Charles Kwong Yim-tze, Professor of Chinese and Translation, Adjunct Professor of Philosophy, Lingnan University.

  • You all know the first lines of the 道德經:

    (A dao that can be spoken is not the enduring dao; a name that can be named is not the enduring name.)

    Well, Professor Kwong has practiced a Dao of Teaching which can be spoken, and which has endured. And he can be named as a teacher-scholar of enduring success. He is a scholar, a poet, a teacher. A "spiritual master," as one of his students has described him. A man of "caring wisdom", says another, whose teaching is "moving and magnetic". As a humanist, he believes teaching in the liberal arts is not simply transmitting knowledge, but exploring values; that a humanist teacher should be a constant learner, a fellow student who never graduates. He is a deeply learned scholar of literature; a prolific author. If, as Yeats said, "education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire," then Professor Kwong's students have been, in every sense, illuminated.

    Professor Kwong plans to use the award grant to share his Dao of teaching and his experience with both Chinese and Western philosophies of education with teachers in the sector through talks and seminars and in two books. The first will be a series of essays entitled, Dialogues on Modern Existence「現代生命的對話」, reflecting on his dialogic exchanges with students over the years, considering questions about individuality and society, culture and nature. The second will be a guide to classical Chinese poetry, from a writer's perspective, showing how classical Chinese poetry is an ancient yet living literary-cultural heritage.

    Thank you, and Congratulations, Professor Kwong!

  • Next, Mr John Lin Chun-han, Associate Professor, Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong

  • Professor Lin is an architect who works with a deep sense of historical, cultural and social context. He is a teacher's teacher, in that he has been mentor, colleague and collaborator across both academic and political boundaries. And he is a pioneer of experiential learning. He has a vision of bridging a permeable divide among university education, professional practice, and community engagement, bringing groups of students to collaborate with him on a series of extraordinary architecture projects in rural China. In doing so, he has argued convincingly for inverting the traditional pyramid of university undergraduate education - putting practice before theory, and has shown how students bring insights from working in teams on real projects to their subsequent theoretical studies. We were particularly impressed by his leadership of HKU students and local villagers in rebuilding a historic bridge in Guizhou, which by all accounts is still standing.

    Professor Lin plans to use the award fund to implement two pilot projects to strengthen experiential learning in inter-disciplinary curricular programmes. The first will set up an inter-disciplinary teaching facility in a rural village in Guangdong; and the other is to set up multi-disciplinary, inter-faculty programmes.

    Thank you and Congratulations, Professor Lin!

  • The third awardee is Dr Elaine Liu Suk-ching, Associate Professor, Department of Applied Social Studies, City University of Hong Kong

  • Dr Liu is a passionate and committed teacher who empowers students by creating out-of-classroom, service-learning opportunities for them to help and serve the community. Drawing on her previous professional experience as a school youth social worker and as a relief social worker in a Vietnamese refugee camp, she encourages the self-discovery and development of students through volunteer work. She has launched the City-Youth Empowerment Project (CYEP), which has helped thousands of students to develop self-confidence, leadership skills, social values and a sense of empowerment. She has also served as the Residence Master of the Jockey Club Humanity Hall at City University of Hong Kong, living the life of teacher and leader every day with 341 undergraduate students.

    Dr Liu plans to use her award grant to expand the successful CYEP project across several universities in Hong Kong, fostering inter-university collaboration on service-learning initiatives.

    Thank you, Professor Liu for showing us the Dao of Service, and Congratulations!

Let us offer our warmest congratulations to the awardees with a big round of applause!

9. The three awardees will share their teaching philosophies with us shortly. Before I pass the floor to Edward for the award presentation, I would like to thank once again all the nominees for their participation. They are an extraordinary group, and it was a true honor for all of us to interview the finalists. I would like now to invite the finalists of the Award to stand up to receive applause from all of us.

[Note: Prof Kirby invites the finalists to stand up to receive applause from the guests.]

10. Finally, I would like to thank the UGC for again entrusting me with the work of the Selection Panel, and the colleagues in the Selection Panel for the generous contribution of their time, effort and wisdom during the selection process. And we can all guarantee you all that teaching in Hong Kong is strong, and is of value. Thank you all.

11. Now let me pass the floor back to Edward for the award presentation ceremony. Thank you.