Dear Students, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to welcome everybody to Hong Kong Metropolitan University and offer an especially warm greeting to all our new students.
You might think that today’s orientation ceremony is simply a routine event, similar to those that every university holds at the start of a new academic year.
Perhaps you can even predict what will be said: make good use of your time, study hard, and make lasting friendships.
However, I would like to engage you with a different approach.
I would like to share with you my thoughts on higher education in Hong Kong, what it means, and why you should care.
To start with, I have seen a great deal of change in the higher education sector in Hong Kong over the years.
By way of background, I have worked in universities for the past 34 years. I was a student in Hong Kong and then in the UK, and I worked in Hong Kong and briefly in Australia.
When I started my career as an academic in 1988, Hong Kong had just two universities, and nearly all the graduates were guaranteed decent jobs.
In 1989, the Hong Kong government established our predecessor, The Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong. The aim was to offer open, flexible, high-quality university education for Hong Kong adults who had left school to join the workforce.
This Institute developed into The Open University of Hong Kong and is now today’s Hong Kong Metropolitan University (HKMU), a modern comprehensive university that offers bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degree programmes.
The 1990s saw the tertiary education sector expand. A third university was established in 1991 and a number of polytechnics and post-secondary colleges were conferred “university status” in the mid-1990s.
Over the next 20 years or so, Hong Kong produced many more university graduates, but, despite the quality of the “new” universities, graduates from the “older” universities were still perceived to be elite and their graduates were more likely to get better jobs.
In Hong Kong, the idea of the “elite” universities is firmly embedded, but I believe that we are now entering a new phase in which university graduates are increasingly judged based on:
who they are, what they have achieved while at university, and how they can contribute to a company, institution or community.
We might say this will be the “Don’t ask where the hero comes from (英雄莫問出處)” era!
One important reason is that there are many more places where heroes can come from today and even more so in the future.
The opportunities available are so much greater than they were 30 years ago.
Hong Kong now has 11 universities plus several other degree-granting institutions.
A recent survey revealed that around 1 in 4 Hong Kong secondary school leavers plan to study overseas after their DSE examinations.
In fact, according to UNESCO, around 36,000 Hong Kong students were studying abroad in 2022. There are numerous pathways on offer, too, with the chance to access university education in unique formats and from more than one institution, and in more than one city or country or region.
The truth is, it is not so easy nowadays to define accurately where a “hero” comes from.
He or she can come from anywhere.
In today’s highly interconnected world where social media is such a powerful agent of change, we can expect to see perceptions start to change rapidly.
Not everyone has to attend an “elite” university to succeed. Today, more than ever, and in the future, too, you can let the world know what you are capable of.
Indeed, when I receive job applications these days, most applicants tend to have more than one university degree over and above other qualifications.
It is not realistic to expect that a four-year degree programme will prepare you sufficiently for the rest of your life.
Most of our new students, if not all of you, will live much longer than those from my generation, with some of you easily reaching 80 or even 100 years of age!
Hong Kong Metropolitan University is excellent, but still we can’t prepare you for the next 80 years!
Ahead of you, therefore, is a lifelong journey of continuous learning, unlearning and relearning; upskilling and reskilling.
Regardless of your educational background, certain fundamental qualities will ensure a smoother transition.
You will need:
- Analytical skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Technical competence
- A positive attitude
- An eagerness to learn
- No university can train you to be analytical unless you want to be;
- No university can train you to be collegiate unless you wish to be;
- No university can train you to be competent unless you continue to learn;
- No university can train you to be trustworthy unless you value honesty; and
- No university can train you to be innovative unless you agree to open your minds.
There is no easy path to success. You have to work hard for it. Of course, not all of us are going to be rich and famous.
But that’s not how I define success.
We can aspire to be happy and contented.
A rewarding and productive university life will be possible if you are happy with your studies, your network, your teachers and, most important of all, with yourself.
So be a hero to yourself, and together let’s make your time at HKMU fruitful, meaningful and productive.
We will accompany you all the way. We will support you however we can.
Good luck and thank you.