我非常強調，我們的大學是非政治化，並沒有一個政治議程。… Continue reading
Mr Chairman, Alumni, Ladies and Gentlemen:
First of all I must thank you for inviting me this evening to discuss with you the state of our University which we all hold dear and close to our hearts. HKU has always had a very special and unique place in Hong Kong.
I must tell you that it is indeed a great honour and privilege for me to be the Council Chairman and I am delighted to have this opportunity to share with you some of my personal thoughts of our University. This evening I want to look into our past, examine our present and the way forward for the future.
In the past, without any doubt, HKU is the top university in Hong Kong and has been ranked in the top 20 universities in the world and that was only a decade ago.
HKU takes in the best students in Hong Kong and at that time the students who managed to gain a place at any university in Hong Kong was only 2-3%. In other words HKU was taking the cream of the cream of HK’s youth.
Our results speak for itself. We have turned out distinguished and outstanding alumni who are pillars of our society today. Our alumni’s achievements cover all walks of life from many diverse businesses to all professions. To be a graduate of HKU is an honour in itself and our community recognizes such a reputation which is unsurpassed.
The University’s relationship with our alumni is very close. We look on with admiration and pride of our alumni and in return our alumni give great support to the university.
However over the past decade, things have drastically changed.
The HKUST have displaced HKU as the top university in Hong Kong. This is really unthinkable and unpalatable! I am glad that we have re-secured our premier position this year. Our world ranking has dropped year on year so that we are not even in the top 100 universities in the world in some surveys.
In public, some of our students can only express themselves in swear words and monotonous slogans and some students have even taken the university to court. This state of affairs has saddened many of us.
It may be undiplomatic and even annoying to some of you to state that the University is in decline. I believe it is important to face facts with honesty so that we can understand the problem in order to reverse the trend. I really do not believe in platitude by telling you that everything in the garden is rosy and we are doing well because I believe we can always do better.
First of all the intake of local students to universities have risen from 2-3% to now 18-20%. In other words more students have an opportunity to gain a university education but inevitably the average standard of university entrants would drop. Fortunately for HKU, because of its past reputation and I stress past reputation, we still manage to attract top tier students into our faculties, and we also fill up our quota for non-local students. In other words, HKU still remains attractive to both local and overseas students. But how long will this situation last? Unlike other institutions, we have not actively gone out of our way to our schools to promote our university. We merely rest on our laurels.
That example sums up the present problem facing us. We have become complacent and no longer hunger for success or have the urgency to do so. Nor do we feel the need to compete.
Another example is our relationship with our alumni. The University will go to our alumni for donations and the generosity of our alumni is very comforting and encouraging. Yet do we seek to develop more network and closer relationship with the very important stake-holders of our university? More complacency because we take things for granted.
Similarly in our research output, although we excel in certain areas but we should be excelling in all areas of scholarship. The recent research assessment exercise carried out by the University Grant Committee has been more than disappointing for some faculties and departments. This is indeed a wake-up call.
Instead we hear the demand to safeguard academic freedom and institutional autonomy. When I met with the Deans of the 10 faculties, I asked them to give me one single example of where academic freedom has been infringed upon such as courses cancelled, research abandoned or publications suppressed because of political pressure or political sensitivity. None of them can give me a single example. In fact they all agreed that academic freedom and institution autonomy are not under any threat whatsoever at our University.
All these so called protection of the University is a mere façade by some mediocre academics to hide behind their incompetence, so that any criticisms directed at them would be construed as an attack on academic freedom. We do not see our outstanding academics complaining about such things. They simply get on with their job in teaching and pursuing knowledge.
At the same time, some political parties and politicians have used the University as a tool to attack the establishment for their own ends. After all the University is indeed part of the establishment. Sadly they use our students as their pawns and manipulate them to create disorder and chaos as they have done in the past.
Our university is apolitical and does not have any political agenda. Our job is to educate our next generation so that they can think for themselves and be responsible and useful citizens.
For the future, we have to get rid of complacency and bring back our hunger for academic success. We have to make tough decisions in terms of hiring to avoid nepotism. We have to set targets to be achieved and putting our university on sound financial basis.
We have to continue to develop our teaching and learning experience for our students, including improving of facilities and amenities. High West is a good example of what can be done after inertia for nearly a decade. We have to ensure that our students have a global perspective.
Our staff must be judged solely on meritocracy and not by their connections to influential people or political parties for promotion.
We have to engage more with our stake-holders so that they know what is happening because our university still has a lot to be proud of.
The future holds a lot of opportunities and we must seize them to move ahead.