Pro-Chancellor Dr Charles Lee, Council Chairman Mr Michael Wong, former Council Chairmen Dr Cheng Hon-kwan, Dr Peter Wong and Dr Eddy Fong, Emeritus President Prof. Yuk-Shan Wong, members of Council and Court, distinguished guests, colleagues, students and alumni,
Today marks the end of a process that began back in 2019, when the University first began to explore the potential benefits of retitling. The process has been lengthy. Much debate has taken place, and yes, the retitling exercise sparked some controversy! Some major stakeholders – including several in the audience today – disagreed with the change, or with the new title or logo. But as a newcomer to the University, I saw that once key decisions were made, arguments stopped. They were replaced by a University-wide commitment to making the change work, and work well. This was my first glimpse of the determined and pragmatic “OUHK spirit”, and I am confident that this spirit will shine just as strong from now on as the “HKMU spirit”.
A major benefit of the year-long retitling exercise, which began formally in July 2020, has been to make us all reflect on our University. Where do we stand today? Where have we come from? And where do we want to go in the next decade? We can all see that the University has come far in recent years, has moved in new directions, and has embraced new aspirations. We are changing to respond to a different student base, and to address the pressing issues that face us here in Hong Kong, as well as regionally and even globally. Our new title reflects these changes. But I want it also to drive changes – in who we are, how we perform, and how we work together with a shared spirit.
To that end, I have set the University three goals in the short term. The first is to ensure that we are providing all our students with a really top-drawer education. The second is to ensure we are doing everything we can to nurture our hardworking talents, so that our graduates are highly regarded by employers and can build meaningful careers. And the third is to give our students the means to become upstanding citizens, fully committed to the wider community and contributing to the social good. Yes, these are goals that we are already achieving to some extent. But I believe we can and must raise the bar further in order to live up to our new title of Hong Kong Metropolitan University.
Raising the bar means further supporting and enhancing our learning and teaching efforts. Given our limited resources as a self-financing university, this is easier said than done! But it can be done, and we will do it – by thinking outside the box, husbanding our resources, and introducing proven tools and processes for enhancement. For instance, we have recently established a new Office for Advancement of Learning and Teaching, which is now coordinating and supporting all our learning and teaching activities across the entire campus. We are in the process of implementing a Student Learning Experience Questionnaire that will give us the solid evidence we need to enhance our students’ learning experience. And we will also soon introduce a new first for our students – official transcripts for every student that will include co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, giving an all-round picture of their performance. These steps are only the beginning. We are planning many other initiatives that I believe will have a real impact on our future performance and reputation as a university.
To live up to our claim of being a university on a par with our Hong Kong peers, we must also expand our research work. As a self-funding institution, we face a real challenge in resourcing research. But nothing is impossible with the spirit of determination and collaboration we have here at HKMU! We have already identified three key strategies to get our research work up and running within our financial constraints. Our research activities will be highly focused on areas of special local and regional relevance, for maximum impact. Our research themes will be ones that allow us to use and share our existing resources wherever possible. And we must be able to “recycle” some of our research back into our teaching, creating a virtuous circle of teaching and research work.
To get research initiatives moving, we have created a “Research Impact Fund” to provide additional support for our focus areas. We are also leading the way in sourcing grants and funding from government bodies and other external sources. And we are privileged to be able to tap into the generosity of many wonderful benefactors. Indeed, I should say here that our University is perhaps unique in Hong Kong in the sheer weight of generous support it enjoys from community and industry leaders, alumni and well-wishers. My sincere thanks goes out to every one of them!
I have emphasized how central to our mission it is to continue providing affordable, high quality education to our students. Let me stress that this goes for our part-time and distance learning teaching too. We take pride in offering open, flexible academic programmes to all members of the community, and in our origins as the only statutory, self-financing university established by the government to provide distance learning programmes. To this end, as the Chairman has mentioned, we have established a new School of Open Learning that starts its work today.
There is much to be done. But on this special occasion, let me conclude by acknowledging the tremendous groundwork laid by past generations of leadership teams, faculty and staff, and students. I would like to pay a special tribute to my predecessor Prof. Yuk-Shan Wong and Council Chairman Mr. Michael Wong for their vision and perseverance in initiating this major change. You have laid the foundation. Now, it is up to all of us – myself, the HKMU management team, faculty and staff, and students alike – to embrace the HKMU spirit and turn this into a reality to be proud of. Today, we take the first step forward as Hong Kong Metropolitan University.