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A passion to nurture minds

Published on Friday, 08 Oct 2010
Joseph Sung Jao-yiu says overseas academics are attracted by the tranquility of the campus.
Photo: David Wong

Dedication to nurturing the hearts and minds of young people is a crucial quality that Chinese University (CUHK) looks for in candidates for academic positions.

"A passion for teaching, demonstrated through open discussions with students and generously sharing what you know with them, is an important part of being an academic, alongside research and service to the community," says Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, the recently-appointed vice-chancellor and president of CUHK.

The university has rolled out a global recruitment campaign to fill more than 100 academic positions of varying levels of seniority and across disciplines, largely in preparation for the extension of undergraduate education from three to four years from 2012.

CUHK will have to staff new courses in general education, and programmes in Chinese, English and information technology, among others.

"There seems to be a misunderstanding that Chinese is the sole medium of instruction at CUHK," Sung says. "In fact, we are a bilingual university. Professional subjects, such as medicine and law, are taught in English to be in line with international practice, while other departments and teaching staff have the flexibility to use Chinese or English in class."

Apart from the four-year curriculum, new research initiatives also explain the university's talent hunt. CUHK is in search of top-notch scientists for the school of biomedical sciences, set up last year to research areas such as stem cell and vascular disease through interdisciplinary collaboration.

The school of life sciences, established this year, encapsulates research on fields ranging from environmental science and molecular biotechnology, to food safety. It will accommodate more than 40 academic staff, about 900 undergraduate and 300 postgraduate students.

"Protecting the environment, using energy efficiently and reducing carbon footprint are part and parcel of the global trend and a big research topic," Sung says. "We need to instil in the younger generation an awareness of environmental protection."

CUHK encourages staff to undertake consultancy and collaborative projects with industry professionals, and assists them in areas such as grant and contract administration, academic editing and intellectual property management and licensing.

The university's academic strength and research capabilities are reflected by favourable rankings on league tables. It came 42nd in this year's QS World University rankings, and was in the top 151-200 grouping of institutions, based on Shanghai Jiaotong University's calculations, the highest-ranking of all Hong Kong universities.

Sung says that as a "comprehensive research university", CUHK offers academics the opportunity to access and integrate knowledge in arts, humanities and sciences.

"For example, if someone in engineering wants to design a computer game based on the setting of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms [a Chinese classic], it will be useful to work with people in the history and literature departments who understand the characters and their dynamics."

Sung adds that CUHK staff and students pride themselves on a pleasant, attractive campus. Built on a slope that overlooks Tolo Harbour, the 137.3-hectare campus is one of Hong Kong's richest natural habitats.

"Our campus especially appeals to overseas academics," Sung says. "The space and tranquility create a scholarly atmosphere. Connections with nature, architecture and statues - such as ones of [master scholars] Confucius and Ch'ien Mu - and chats with peers and students in a relaxing environment are often sources of inspiration."

The college system, a unique feature of CUHK among local universities, provides an intimate setting for teachers and students to come together and share ideas. "While we will continue inviting `master scholars', such as [Nobel laureate] Yang Chen-ning, to address our students, I hope our teachers will enjoy interacting with the young people every day."


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