Council boss sees regional learning hub role for HKU

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2008, 12:00am

Hong Kong should develop into an education hub to train some of the best brains with a global perspective, University of Hong Kong council chairman Victor Fung Kwok-king says.

He said 'internationalisation' had been the key mission since he took up the post in November 2003.

The university was ranked 18th in the Times Higher Education Supplement world rankings last year.

It had been Dr Fung's ambition to bring the university into the top 25 in the world.

He questioned an assumption that the best brains would only go to the west for education or teaching.

'Hong Kong should be an education hub. We should be training talent for the Pearl River Delta, the whole country and the whole region. We should be the place people in the delta look to for ideas and research,' he said.

Hong Kong should also help manpower planning in the greater Pearl River Delta and forecast its impact on education needs.

The Times Higher Education Supplement rankings work on peer review, employers' review, number of international staff and students, staff/student ratio and staff citations.

The university did well in the size of international staff, peer review and employers' review but scored lower on international student numbers and citations.

'More than 40 per cent of our teaching staff are non-local and many of our local staff are trained overseas. We have to keep our international characteristic, and this is something I will fight very hard to preserve,' Dr Fung said.

The university plans to hire 200 more professors by 2010.

Dr Fung said the university was glad to have a chance to increase the percentage of non-local students from 10 to 20 per cent under a new policy initiative. But he emphasised that such an increase would not be at the expense of city students.

Dr Fung added that Hong Kong students often lacked a global perspective. 'Tell me how you can train our next generation of leaders by just keeping talking to ourselves?' he asked.

'What I am really concerned about is how to give our students more interaction with international peers and develop a global perspective.'

Dr Fung said Hong Kong would not lose out when students left the city after graduation.

'When they go back to their home countries and work there, we will have a strong overseas network of graduates who are very familiar with Hong Kong; it helps the long-term competitiveness of Hong Kong.'

However, he said the university would not be satisfied with the 20 per cent figure. 'Look at MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology] and Harvard, the percentage [of overseas students] is 30 or 40 per cent. Why can't we have the same ratio?'

Dr Fung said the University of Hong Kong appeared to be attractive to overseas students.

'When a smart and ambitious young man in the US knows that the whole world is talking about Asia, it is the Asia century and he is interested in China's development, what kind of choices does he have for education?

'He can take a very intensive Mandarin course and go to Tsinghua University, but it is not that realistic. He may rather come to HKU for an English curriculum.'

Forthcoming reforms will mean that HKU has to take care of 40 per cent more students. At present, only 30 per cent of its students can live on campus. Dr Fung said a lack of accommodation had stopped HKU from expanding its overseas students and academic staff. He called on the government to allow some old or vacant buildings to be converted into student hostels.