Open to all
Your correspondent Pierce Lam (Sunday Morning Post, August 20) observed that the University of Hong Kong has recently changed access for vehicles and now prevents cars owned by members of the public from entering at Kotewall Road and exiting on Bonham Road without paying a fee.
He compared Hong Kong University with other universities and said that the university, as a publicly funded institution, had an obligation to provide open campus access.
Although we are a publicly funded institution, it does not follow that all our facilities are therefore open for public use at all times.
The Hong Kong University campus is open to all. Indeed, it is considerably more open than many campuses worldwide.
Far from being a cloister and detached from the community, the campus is an essential part of the lives of many in the neighbourhood.
Every day, hundreds of members of the public enter the campus and enjoy the setting for exercise, contemplation and recreation, as well as, of course, collaboration and consultation with staff.
Mr Lam compares us to Oxford and Cambridge.
He may wish to note that the colleges in those universities lock their gates at most times in the year and charge an entrance fee to non-university visitors.
The road at Hong Kong University was built to link the campus from top to bottom across a very steep site, allowing fire-service access to all points, to provide a safer and more effective setting for education.
We have, however, found that more than 500 vehicles each day were taking advantage of the connection and driving through the campus, often at high speed in their hurry to get out of the other gate. We have a responsibility towards our students to minimise any danger from road users, especially those who are using the campus as a short cut.
We have had several near accidents, alerting us to the potential problems, especially where pedestrians do not expect the roads to carry fast-moving traffic.
Essentially, the short cut through the campus is one that would probably only be used by vehicles whose drivers are in a hurry and we would wish to eliminate such unnecessary use of the roads, particularly in the morning rush hours, when students are arriving for lectures.
Mr Lam suggests that the road in question is 'always away from the principal pedestrian and academic areas of the campus'. He may not have noticed that all the students from at least two halls of residence on the campus have to cross this road every morning. Without such an awareness of potential problems and the willingness to take appropriate action, we would be concerned about our liability should an accident occur.
We appreciate that our new policy may inconvenience a few drivers who are not connected with the university in any way, but our primary responsibility is to the members of the university and its students, and we have to ensure that we do all that we can to minimise danger to them while providing an appropriate campus for education.
Director of External Relations
The University of Hong Kong