I have had the privilege of serving as the University's Pro-Chancellor since 2013. In that role, this is now my tenth — and last — annual message for the University that is so dear to my heart. In fact, my relationship with this institution dates right back to 1998, when I first became Chairman of the Council. At that time we had just upgraded to the Open University of Hong Kong, having previously operated as the Open Learning Institute. No one, including myself, could have predicted the remarkable growth and transformation that would take place in our University in the mere 30-odd years from its founding until today.

One reason that the University has transformed so dramatically is, of course, that the world has changed radically in the meantime — technologically, economically, and socially. I have been gratified to watch the University keep pace with these constant transformations over the years, forging a niche for itself and remaining engaged and relevant as time has passed. We have seen that most obviously in these last couple of years, when it has taken on the title of Hong Kong Metropolitan University and set itself the task of consolidating and expanding its social and educational role in Hong Kong and the region.

Our University was born with an important but limited social goal: to fill an educational gap in Hong Kong by providing distance learning higher education opportunities for adult learners. That goal having achieved its desired level of coverage, HKMU is now looking for new ways to engage with society and meet the needs of the community. It is doing that by developing new practical professional programmes to meet new demand from business and industry. Already, its reputation in some specialist fields is well-established: HKMU graduates are stepping into new skilled jobs in growth areas such as nursing, new business, testing and certification, the creative industry, and teaching. Their hands-on skills and dedicated mindsets are winning them plaudits across the board.

Accompanying the growth in the University's ambitions, there has been a necessary and very satisfying growth in its physical presence in Hong Kong. I have personally witnessed the University's expansion over the years, from two blocks in Ho Man Tin 30 years ago to three distinct campuses in 2023 filled with everything students need to learn well and to live well — including advanced labs and studios, modern student amenities, and a wide variety of spaces for study, socialisation and leisure. In this past year alone, new campus facilities have been added as administration offices have been moved off-site, and plans have got underway to acquire new buildings for student hostels. Most excitingly, proposals have been launched for a major new Sheung Shing Street Slope Site project with the theme of “A Hub for Community Health and Wellness”, an ambitious project which will hopefully become a new jewel in HKMU's crown in the years to come.

For me though, what has been most heart-warming has not been the steady increase in HKMU's space and resources, although that has been hugely gratifying to see. Rather, it has been the sight of the entire University community working together with a united spirit to achieve these new goals, even though sometimes they seemed at first sight near impossible to accomplish. That included some magnificent donations from generous philanthropists who shared our vision and were determined that future HKMU students deserved the best.

Anyone like me who surveys the growth of the University over decades is acutely aware that its growth and transformation is down to no single individual. Every new President, Council Chairman, and member of the Council has brought his or her unique energy and intelligence to the task of pushing the University forward. The combined momentum of their passion and drive has been enormous. I am extremely grateful for all they have given over the years, and believe they can be proud of all that has been achieved.

In institutional terms, our University was very young when I first joined it; just nine years of age. Today it is 34, still young by the standards of many educational institutions, but one that has matured and grown and found its feet and developed its ambitions over that time. Now, with a new identity, it brings together broad experience and youthful energy. That combination translates into an ambition for the future that is seeing HKMU push at its physical limits, as it looks to provide the best possible learning environment for its students while also directly benefiting the wider community. As I hand over the baton as Pro-Chancellor to my successor, I do hope he enjoys the HKMU journey as much as I have.

Dr Charles Lee Yeh-kwong
October 2023