Council Chairman's

Having served as Deputy Council Chairman of the HKMU Council for three years, this June I was honoured to step into the Chairman's role. I am especially aware of, and grateful for, the remarkable groundwork laid by a long line of distinguished previous Council Chairmen. Their efforts have set a high bar, and represent a real inspiration for taking our University forward.

One recurring theme of the University since its retitling has been a commitment to addressing the needs and aspirations of our metropolis, especially as Hong Kong increasingly seeks to integrate its own development into that of the country as a whole. The country's 14th Five-Year Plan explicitly supports Hong Kong's development as an international innovation and technology (I&T) hub, and our Chief Executive laid out a number of steps for achieving this in his first Policy Address in October this year. HKMU is determined to play its part in helping Hong Kong achieve this goal. Indeed, a good number of our existing programmes are already training talent in strategically important I&T sectors such as life and health technology, artificial intelligence and data science, financial technology, and new energy technology. It is not hard to see why so many of our programmes — including Medical Laboratory Science, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence, Finance and Financial Technology, and Building Services and Sustainable Development — have made their way into the Government's Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions / Sectors (SSSDP). I should also mention the Government's plans to develop Hong Kong into an International Aviation Hub — another ambitious goal which the University is directly supporting through its Bachelor of Business Administration with Honours in Aviation Services Management.

In addition to teaching, our faculty are providing innovative solutions in support of Hong Kong's development through applied research too. Our newly identified strategic research areas include environmental science, gerontechnology and smart city, the last of which echoes the Government's Hong Kong Smart City Blueprint. HKMU is continuing to bring in talent from the mainland and all over the world, as well as fostering collaborative efforts in knowledge creation. In particular, to strengthen cross-border synergies in research work, we are negotiating for the setting up of a research institute in the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Innovation and Technology Park being planned for the Lok Ma Chau Loop, which is being developed as a key research base.

It is exciting to be Council Chairman of a university that is working so hard to help our city, our region and our country achieve its development aspirations. Equally, it is very exciting to work with a HKMU community that is brimming with potential. Just this July, I had the pleasure of attending the Graduation Show of our graduating creative arts students. One particular item on display — a rehabilitation game utilising AR technology that is designed for mild stroke patients — spoke to the engineer in me. Seeing the game's potential for occupational injury rehabilitation, I immediately recommended it to the Occupational Safety and Health Council. Last year, a group of graduates created another VR game aimed at helping people learn to drive. The game made a big impression on Lee Kin Driving School, so much so that the school is now supporting an HKMU research project exploring the viability of teaching driving with VR technology. These are just two examples of the curiosity, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit that I see at work around me every day at HKMU.

In talent education, we are not simply giving our students the latest and best in knowledge and research, though that goes without saying. More than that, we are looking for ways of inspiring them in their learning and growing, broadening their horizons, and giving them real-world opportunities to understand how they can make an impact. Increasingly, we are doing this by providing our students with hands-on exposure in specific industries. This year, HKMU has signed agreements with such notable industry partners as Kowloon Motor Bus, The Hari Hong Kong, Marriott International and Hong Yip Service Company, enabling hundreds of HKMU students to gain an insider's perspective into their businesses. In fact, when we include credit-bearing practicum places, over 6,000 HKMU students have been placed in different workplace environments over the past year — some 60% of our entire full-time student population! What I would love to see is every single student having at least one placement opportunity during their undergraduate years. It is an ambitious goal, I know, but we will be working towards achieving this level of industry engagement in the years ahead.

Our longstanding commitment to 'Education for All' is also driving new initiatives, backed by the belief that all students have innate talent or potential that can be unlocked by education. As the only university in Hong Kong offering distance learning degrees, we are in an extremely strong position to reach out to many who might otherwise find it difficult or impossible to embrace the benefits of higher education. One such group is prison inmates. Currently, we are providing some 300 individuals in confinement with opportunities to transcend their situations by studying towards higher education qualifications. These opportunities are all the more important as Hong Kong contemplates ways to help young offenders reintegrate into society and embrace a personally satisfying and socially productive future. To this end, we are exploring more flexible options for imprisoned students such as allowing them to transfer credits previously earned from other institutions and to postpone placements for practical subjects until they are released.

Our new School of Open Learning is also supporting the aspirations of those who do not have the luxury of devoting themselves to full-time education, by providing them with the support they need to balance their work and study obligations. Increasingly too we are looking at the potential that continuing education has for delivering valuable social and business benefits. For example, we are exploring the possibility of developing programmes and courses designed to help SMEs and other businesses transform themselves in the digital age. New courses on topics such as AI and digital business are what many small business owners desperately need in order to operate successfully in today's increasingly digital business environment.

HKMU enjoys a large and loyal alumni body. Many are part-time graduates from earlier years who have established themselves as renowned and respected leaders or managers in their industries. They represent a rich and supportive resource for the University, with many alumni keen to give back to the institution that nurtured them. Recognising these deep links, the University has been taking steps to strengthen and regularise its alumni network, in the first instance by setting up an official umbrella alumni association and expanding the range of alumni services it offers. We see this an important initiative that will open up valuable exchange and learning opportunities for alumni and current students alike.

Falling student admission numbers is an issue that many universities in Hong Kong are currently grappling with. I believe it speaks volumes about HKMU that our university is currently doing very well in attracting new students. There is no room for complacency, however. We have seen what kind of education students are looking for, and the kinds of skills and talents Hong Kong needs to take it forward in the coming years, and we are determined to continue to deliver these things. We will continue to invest in promising new fields of education, launch new and attractive programmes that meet societal needs, expand our research work in socially valuable areas and, generally, offer students opportunities they cannot find elsewhere.

The world will never stop changing, and as a university, we will not stop adapting and developing to ensure we are addressing changing human needs and aspirations. Of course, changes inevitably bring challenges, but we are ready to tackle these with talent and determination. In my role as Council Chairman, supported by the Council as well as University management and the wider HKMU community, I am highly optimistic about the future. The groundwork is in place; the vision is clear. I look forward to seeing HKMU play an ever more significant part in helping to transform our city and our society for the better.

Ir Dr Conrad Wong Tin-cheung
October 2022