Dean, Professor Joanne Chung, colleagues and students, ladies and gentlemen,
Let me begin by offering you my congratulations on your graduation from the School of Nursing and Health Studies at Hong Kong Metropolitan University.
You are the first cohort of students graduating from our recently retitled institution.
You have achieved something unique in your lives: completing a challenging series of courses and earning a degree from HKMU!
Well done, everyone!
On this great day, I would like to say a few words about a university education.
I would like to invite you to think about what your qualification means to you and how you would use it.
The meaning of a university education today, as well as the role higher education institutions play locally, regionally and globally, has changed dramatically in recent years.
You may not know this, but before 1963 there was just one university in Hong Kong, and the number of students at that university was quite small, about 2,000.
By 1965, i.e. 56 years ago, just around 2 % of young people were admitted to university.
So at that time, graduating from university was considered the golden key to success.
Admission to a university programme was equivalent to winning the cash sweepstake at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. 等同“中馬票”！
You should expect to land well-paid jobs in the private sector, join the civil service, or pursue further studies.
A good career was almost guaranteed.
In those days, people who were turned away from university education would then start to work, and many tried to upgrade themselves by self-learning or studying in evening schools.
In the late 1980s, Hong Kong Government established our predecessor, the Open Learning Institute or the OLI, to provide the solution to the majority of Hong Kong adults who had left school to join the workforce.
I must say that I am very proud of the role which the OLI played in providing open, flexible and high-quality education to the people of Hong Kong during that period.
It is from there that we developed into today’s HKMU.
Today, Hong Kong has 11 universities plus several other degree-granting institutions, and the number of university graduates has increased significantly. The fact is, a university qualification is no longer out of reach for many.
However, the expansion of higher education generates some questions that we are compelled to contemplate.
Some people argue that basic education is a right, while higher education is a privilege. I am not sure what your views are.
In my view, education is a right, not a privilege. But then it begs another question.
Today, the Government has already spent a lot of money on university education.
The questions is: “Is that money well spent?”
Some people may ask: “Why are we spending so much money on university education when the quality and behaviour of university graduates fall below our expectations?”
My response would be: “What will our young people be like if we don’t give them a good education?”
Then the question for myself and my colleague would be: “Have we given you a good education?”
You may think: “I work so hard. Why I am not given a big salary even though I have got the qualification?”
“Sadly, the days of a university qualification guaranteeing a comfortable well-paid job are over.
But, in any case, a good education leads to a more meaningful life. Money is not everything.”
Education adds meaning to every aspect of your life, but only if you want it to.
If I had a chance to speak to you when you first entered university, I would have said:
You may not have chosen the university you wanted to attend, but you then have the chance to make a decision on how you spend your time at the university and how you make use of all the opportunities available to you.
Now, at your graduation, even if you have not made full use of your time at university to learn the skill and the knowledge required at the workplace, you can still decide what sort of life you want to live, and what sort of career you want to nurture.
The world is changing rapidly, but one thing is clear:
Those who succeed will be those who can:
- anticipate change
- adapt to new circumstances
- know the changes are inevitable and respond appropriately.
Every one of us must be ready to collaborate, communicate and cooperate with people of different cultures, ethnic backgrounds, socioeconomic status, political views and life experiences.
To achieve our goals, we must continue to acquire new knowledge, and more importantly, make sure our minds are always open.
Your time at university cannot prepare you for the rest of your life. This is unrealistic.
But the past years at the university should have prepared you for learning and for life. You want to do that. The most flexible way of doing it is at HKMU!
Just because you are graduating doesn’t mean we must lose contact.
We will actively seek ways to facilitate our graduates coming back to HKMU to gain another qualification or just simply to update their knowledge.
A few years down the line, you may discover a new passion or want to embark on a new career.
You may wish to switch from Nursing and Health Studies to completely new set of disciplines.
We should be encouraging you to do that and we will support you.
Just come back and see us!
It is your right and our privilege that you study with us again.
And so, on a final note, I would like to congratulate all of you, your parents and family members who have supported you all the way, and your teachers who have helped you throughout this journey.