University turns silver anniversary into milestone for golden future
Widely recognised as a pioneering research university, and respected for its interdisciplinary studies, over the past 25 years Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) has consistently expanded its prestigious international reputation by building on a momentum of international student exchange programmes and fostering important connections among academic, government, science and technology, and business leaders from across the globe.
As HKUST approaches its 25th anniversary, the university is home to more than 13,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students spanning more than 30 countries over five continents. In the 2015 Times Higher Education ratings, HKUST was ranked 59th among 800 universities and fourth in the world’s top 100 universities that have been in existence for less than 50 years.
Eden Woon, HKUST vice-president for institutional advancement, says its underlying culture is international in a way that goes beyond consistently achieving high global rankings. Although high rankings are important for students, parents and faculty because they place HKUST on the global recognition map of ability and achievement, Woon says the university’s international perspectives are underpinned by a wide range of factors, including its international outlook, research focus, student exchange programmes, multi-ethnic faculty, diverse student mix, and strong ties to global institutions, in addition to wide-ranging connections with the mainland. At the same time, it makes a valuable ongoing contribution to Hong Kong’s socio-economic development by working with local companies including SMEs and start-up enterprises.
HKUST graduates ranked 14th in the world this year in the annual Global Employability University Survey, and ranked second in Asia behind the University of Tokyo in a survey involving 4,500 recruiters and executives from 20 countries including the US, China, Japan, Britain, Mexico, Morocco and Spain. “This is an astonishing result, and indicates employers have experience of hiring HKUST graduates who do a good job because of their education and international outlook,” says Woon, adding that the international experience HKUST students have helps them to be more at ease working with people from different cultures and backgrounds.
With global outreach as of HKUST’s key developmental areas, Woon says the university places an emphasis on internationalisation and integration of students from different backgrounds via exchange programmes with more the 200 leading universities. Annually, more than 50 per cent of students spend at least one semester overseas at a partner university. Woon explains how the exchange experience enables students to immerse themselves in another culture, while broadening their life perspectives and helping them to develop a global vision. “We encourage our students to expand their horizons by studying overseas in the US, Britain and at top universities in Israel, Turkey and Mexico City,” says Woon. Each year international students also study at HKUST as a key part of the part of the reciprocal exchange student arrangements.
Woon says HKUST has also forged strategic partnerships with a number of elite universities to foster inter-university research collaboration and offer joint degree programmes. “These close-knit relationships benefit both faculty and students by enriching the learning experience,” says Woon. He cites as an example of strategic collaboration the triple-degree undergraduate World Bachelor in Business programme offered by HKUST in partnership with the University of Southern California, in the US, and Italy’s Bocconi University. The programme allows students to study on three continents, experiencing diverse cultures and business environments. They spend one year studying at each university, before completing a final year at their home university.
As HKUST’s international reputation continues to grow, Woon says that every year more and more high-calibre international students apply to study at the university. Each year, about 3,000 top-quality students from worldwide apply for about 180 undergraduate places. At the same time, around 6,000 undergraduate students from the mainland also apply for the same amount of places. On campus, the 1-HKUST Student Life Award (SLA) aims to foster a greater sense of belonging among students by promoting cultural diversity experiences that encourage students to work together to develop a vibrant community.
With a global alumni network that spans over 100 countries and cities around the world, the body of HKUST graduates acts as an important and convenient link for employment and academic recommendations. To mark HKUST’s 25th anniversary, a series of celebratory events is being held, starting with a seminar hosted by the HKUST School of Science and a gala dinner in London, attended by alumni and a list of international distinguished guests including China's ambassador to Britain. HKUST was ranked number 14 among Asia’s top 100 universities in natural sciences – and number two in Hong Kong – in the 2015 QS University Rankings. The long list of HKUST’s high rankings also includes number eight in the QS top 100 Asian universities in Engineering & Technology – number one in Hong Kong – and 19th among Asia’s top 100 universities in social science management. The QS World University Rankings, published by British education company Quacquarelli Symonds, is one of the most widely known rankings of tertiary institutes worldwide.
Meanwhile, HKUST business school has been recognised for its cutting-edge design and delivery, with global rankings amongst the top tier of programmes from around the world. HKUST was the first business school in Asia to receive dual accreditation from the prestigious Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) in the US and the European Quality Improvement System (EQUIS) in Europe. “Even though HKUST has already achieved a certain level of recognition within global higher education circles, we will continue to develop our international reputation,’’ says Woon.