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Continuing mission to produce future leaders

Published on Wednesday, 23 May 2012
Professor Tsui Lap-chee

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) was founded over a hundred years ago with a clear mission. The stated aim was to provide students with the intellectual skills and abilities to help develop and advance Hong Kong and its neighbouring regions in the Far East. Through the years, the university has accordingly produced generations of graduates who have served society as leaders in almost every walk of life.

A century on, though, that original mission has also been broadened to encompass a more international outlook and innovative approaches to achieving excellence in teaching and learning.

We believe that university education is a total learning experience. Therefore, we offer opportunities for students to participate in and face challenges, which will prepare them well for whatever lies ahead in an ever-changing world. We want them to feel comfortable about tackling unfamiliar issues and new, or “ill-defined”, problems and to have the range of skills required to devise appropriate answers.

This year, in line with the government’s education reforms, all local institutions of higher education will admit the last cohort of students for the old three-year undergraduate curriculum and the first for the new four-year degrees. This has given HKU the opportunity to reflect critically on the total learning experience afforded to students and to enhance each of our programmes. The goal is to nurture wellinformed, well-rounded students who are better able to meet the challenges of a globalised knowledge-based economy.

Employers, in particular, have given us valuable advice by identifying some of the key qualities they look for in graduates. Typically, they emphasise the ability to collaborate and communicate effectively through having good interpersonal skills plus the willingness to take responsibility and show commitment, which reflects a good attitude and steady work ethic.

To meet these challenges, HKU’s new curriculum offers a wide spectrum of highquality programmes. The design and purpose is to help students achieve their personal best academically, while also training them to be independent thinkers, articulate communicators, good team players, and ethically conscientious individuals.

With a “student-driven” approach, the new curriculum will enable a full and rich range of academic pursuits in various combinations of specialities and disciplines. Students will be encouraged, with appropriate faculty advice, to develop wider interests and abilities, and to gain more diverse co-curricular experience.

As part of our philosophy to promote life-long learning and whole-person development, students are also expected to involve themselves in all kinds of extracurricular activities, including general education courses, mentorship programmes, industry placements, and international exchange programmes.

To strengthen international links, HKU is host to over 6,500 students from around the world and more than half our faculty have “non-local” origins. This creates a genuine intercultural learning environment on campus. We also have academic links with more than 300 universities or research institutes in close to 30 different countries, providing ample opportunities for all HKU students to have experience of studying overseas.

It is our firm belief that international exchanges are essential and that it is critically important for us to give undergraduates meaningful exposure to life in other parts of the world. Such exchanges immerse students in other communities and languages and make them more independent-thinking, culturally conscious individuals. The experience also helps them understand how personal choices may have an impact on others across boundaries of nation, race and religion, and that to be a “global citizen” means having a sense of responsibility for these choices.

For over a hundred years, HKU has transformed lives, built communities and served society with knowledge and education. In its second century, the university remains committed to its mission of teaching, nurturing and empowering students to become future leaders who will make a difference.

Professor Tsui Lap-chee is vice-chancellor and president of The University of Hong Kong

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