Although COVID-19 only burst onto the scene in early 2020, for many of us it has felt like a lifetime! Few of us expected its repercussions to be so significant or so long-lasting. So it gives me pleasure and relief to write at a time when signs of Hong Kong’s long-awaited reopening to the world are finally beginning to appear.

The pandemic and the measures introduced to fight it have tested the systems and the resilience of every educational institution in the world, ours not excepted. I think it is fair to say that HKMU has emerged from this ‘acid test’ with flying colours. At a time when many organisations were treading water as they waited for the pandemic to ease, our University was pressing ahead with bold new initiatives that were transforming our identity, our public profile, and our future goals. I believe HKMU has shown impressive tenacity and determination in riding the challenges of the past two and a half years, and preparing for a new and ambitious future.

Readers will know that last September saw the relaunch of our institution under the new name of Hong Kong Metropolitan University. It represented the beginning of a new era, and the new slogan that accompanied the new name — ‘Me & U, beyond limits’ — announced our ambition to go beyond anything we have ever done in the past. In a word, we declared that we would no longer be restricted by anything that might limit our reach, and nor would we set boundaries on the education we offered or how we delivered it. At that ceremony, I talked with previous office-holders of the University. All were enthusiastically behind the changes. All were united in the belief that HKMU’s mission should continue to expand so that we could continue to meaningfully serve Hong Kong and the surrounding regions.

Over the past year, I have been very impressed by the many multi-level new initiatives that HKMU has steadily rolled out to achieve its new ambitions. These have included developing and launching new academic programmes, carrying out important internal administrative restructuring, and rolling out new learning and personal development activities for students.

One major concern under the pandemic was the inability of our students to get out and interact with the wider world. Fortunately, the strong local networks we have established in this international city of Hong Kong meant that we were still able to offer our students wide cultural exposure, despite travel limitations. Further, modern technology has made working remotely so much easier than ever, and many of our students got to work with overseas companies and acquire essential post-pandemic skills through this channel. Despite this, I believe that the act of physical travel will never lose its central importance for people looking to become global citizens. Travel offers opportunities for immersion in other cultures that cannot be replicated by technology. This summer, we took the first step in gradually resuming our overseas exchange programmes when we set a small party on a tour to New Zealand. We hope this is the first of very many foreign exchanges to come.

It has become a commonplace to talk about the ‘new normal’ these days. The expression reflects the fact that some things will never be the same again after the pandemic. I am sure that will sometimes generate a nostalgia for the past, but for an institution like HKMU it also represents opportunities for growth and expansion. For HKMU will never be the same again either, post-pandemic. Over the last couple of years we have pushed ahead unswervingly, making essential changes and continuing to look for new ways to get better at what we do and to serve society more comprehensively. As the pandemic finally eases, our University looks different. It has a new name, a new logo and motto, new leadership, and a whole set of new programmes and initiatives for the future. At the same time, it retains the core virtues of its past, including its ongoing commitment to ‘Education for All’. HKMU is now combining broad past experience with a youthful energy and vision in a way that is generating excitement, optimism, and a sense of promise. The future is indeed a bright one.

Dr Charles Lee Yeh-kwong
October 2022