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HKUST 25th Anniversary

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30 university presidents confirmed to talk at HKUST 25th anniversary event

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 March, 2016, 11:54am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 April, 2016, 10:15am

Times Higher Education (THE), the rankings and education event organiser, is set to stage its inaugural Asia Universities Summit at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). The event, which takes place 20 to 21 June, is part of HKUST’s 25th anniversary celebrations.

Dr Eden Woon, HKUST vice-president for institutional advancement, says the Summit will bring together members of government, industry leaders, and presidents and senior leaders from prominent and influential universities around the world.

Thirty university presidents will speak at this all-presidents event. “It’s extremely rare to have so many university presidents speaking at one event, and this will be a first for the THE World Summit Series,” notes Woon. The fact that all the presidents are travelling to Hong Kong to visit us shows the importance they place on their relationship with the HKUST, Woon says.  “We see this as recognition of the HKUST as a truly international university, with a name, influence and impact that spreads all over the world,” he notes.

The Summit will also include an exclusive first-look at the Times Higher Education Asia University Rankings results, and a masterclass with rankings editor Phil Baty. The Asia Universities Summit forms part of Times Higher Education’s growing World Summit Series, which includes the Young Universities Summit, the BRICS & Emerging Economies Summit, and the flagship World Academic Summit. According to Times Higher Education, the intention is to partner with some of the world’s most exciting, innovative and prestigious higher education institutions.

Keynote speakers appearing at this Summit include Chuanzhi Liu, chairman of the board of Legend Holdings Corporation and the founder of computer manufacturing company Lenovo, and Wei Yang, president of the National Natural Science Foundation of China. Nicholas W. Yang, the Hong Kong government secretary for innovation and technology, will open the Summit.

Woon says the slogan for the 25th anniversary, “Innovating Today, Imagining Tomorrow”, is a timely theme which reflects the fact that the issues facing academia at tertiary level are often shared. Topics in the presentation include how universities balance basic and applied research, and discussions on whether different cultures have an impact on innovation. The presentation will discuss whether young universities (those which were founded up to 50 years ago) have any advantages over universities with an established heritage.

There will also be a focus on the mainland’s investment in education, and a look at its aim to use technology to boost its economy.  “These are timely subjects that are certain to generate a lot of diverse and interesting views,” says Woon.

Speakers include Thomas F. Rosenbaum, president of the California Institute of  Technology (Caltech), which came top in the Time Higher Education Rankings for five years running. Other presidents include Nancy Rothwell, from the University of Manchester, Ana Mari Cauce, from the University of Washington, Jean-Lou Chameau, from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, and Gene Block, from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In addition, presidents Zhaohui Wu, from Zhejiang University, Ningsheng Xu, from Fudan University, Jie Zhang, from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and presidents from Hong Kong universities and from many significant universities around the world will also attend the Summit.

HKUST is recognised as a pioneering research university, and is respected for its interdisciplinary studies and its internationalisation. Woon says HKUST strives to both meet Hong Kong’s local needs and keep in touch with global trends. HKUST’s international outlook results from its student exchange programmes, its diverse student mix, its strong ties to global institutions, and its deep connection with the mainland, Woon says. The four HKUST schools (engineering, science, business and management, and humanities and social science) have a global reputation for basic and applied research. They are also for successfully commercialising breakthroughs that occur in the laboratory.

“There are many examples of HKUST graduates becoming successful entrepreneurs,” says Woon.  “Research from our science and engineering faculties makes a real-world contribution.” But Woon stresses the importance of conducting basic research: “It’s hard to predict how basic research will pay off in the future. GPS application must take into account the effect due to general relativity discovered decades ago.’’ If it wasn’t for basic research, there would also be no smartphones or big data, Woon adds. But commercialization of applied research is occupying more and more of universities’ attention these days. The Summit will also examine this balance.

The Asia Universities Summit is part of a wider spectrum of 25th anniversary events which began in September 2015. So far, these have included global anniversary banquets and seminars for friends, alumni, and overseas students in London and San Francisco. Two more such events are scheduled to be held in Beijing and Singapore. The anniversary calendar of events also features a Distinguished Speakers Series, in which Nobel Prize winners and business and academic leaders make presentations at the HKUST to an audience of students, faculty, and invited guests. HKUST aims to have 25 of these distinguished speakers during its 25th anniversary year.