HKUST-THE Asia Universities Summit

Sponsored by:


Live Report: HKUST - THE Asia Universities Summit - Conference Day 2

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2016, 9:56am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 June, 2016, 9:14am

[Sponsored Article]

Welcome to day two of our Live Reporting from the CMA Lecture Theater, in the Cheng Yu Tung Building at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) where the two-day Asia Universities Summit is being jointly presented by the HKUST and Times Higher Education.



As the panel of speakers leave the stage, Phil Baty, Editor, Times Higher Education, World University Rankings, steps up to the podium to make his closing remarks. He thanks the HKUST for producing an excellent Summit programme and for providing such a welcoming venue for the inaugural event. He then shows a video of highlights of the presidents talking about the Summit and what they gained.

As he referred to in his opening remarks yesterday, Baty says as the HKUST celebrates its 25th anniversary, the higher education facility stands as an outstanding example of what great heights can be achieved in a relatively short space of time when universities have a clear vision, the right level of support and inspirational leadership. With a final round of applause, just one of many enthusiastic rounds of applause, which have underpinned the success of this two-day event, the inaugural Asia Higher Education Universities Summit reaches its conclusion. Thank you for joining us during our live blogging from the HKUST, where for 25 years the university has been innovating for today and imagining tomorrow.



An audience member now asks what is the difference between a Chinese student and a US student? Joseph J.Y. Sung, Vice-Chancellor and President, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), says things are changing. "It used to be the case that Chinese students would not ask questions, but now, with China opening up and the government pushing on innovation, and in some cases, the adoption of western style education, we are seeing a change," notes Sung. The panel agrees and adds that Chinese students themselves are now looking for a learning environment where they can be individuals, interact and have the chance to express themselves driven by their own motivation and passion.



The panel now takes questions from the audience. Jie Zhang, President, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, says he faced resistance to his reforms, but performance and satisfaction of students outweighed the negative aspects. Dr Denis Simon, Executive Vice-Chancellor, Duke Kunshan University, answers a question about student application and the curriculum. "The programmes are taught in English, and while mainland students have to take the national exam, we can use our own evaluation to decide which students we enroll," says Simon.



The last speaker today, Wei Zhao, Rector, University of Macau, says he is happy to be the final speaker because he agrees with much of what has been said today. "The goal of our university is to allow students to discover themselves while persuing different goals and different strategies that suit our mix of students and fit with the needs of our small city," says Zhao. "We have our students take part in learning outside and inside the classroom," explains Zhao, who adds it may not seem like a very ambitious strategy, but unless students understand themselves they are unlikely to be successful in other parts of their lives. "We call it learning by living modeled on Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and Yale," says Zhao. "The behavioural output and academic output have shown marked improvement," says Zhao, who has been Rector of the University of Macau since 2008. Previous positions held by Zhao include Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the US, Director for the Division of Computer and Network Systems in the US National Science Foundation and Senior Associate Vice-President for Research at Texas A&M University.



Wu continues showing graphs and slides which show how his university have set up research platforms, education support, and incubation and financing channels. "We are exploring a new model for entrepreneurship to meet future challenges by offering an open innovation system," says Wu.

A prominent physicist, Jie Zhang, President, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, says he will provide a few examples of how his university has taken steps to enhance innovation capabilities, driven creativity and culture. "The first step was to inspire curiosity, followed by encouraging teamwork," says Zhang. "We were a traditional Chinese engineering university, but we have climbed up the index for innovation potential," says Zhang.  To change the culture, the university dropped financial incentives for paper publishing and changed research to problem-focused research. The faculty team was also widened with the addition of overseas recruitment and a road map for a tenure system was set up, notes Zhang, who took up his current role in 2006, having previously served as Director General of the Bureau of Basic Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, a fellow of the World Academy of Sciences and international fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.



Simon says he believes the link-up with seven mainland universities could change higher education in China. "Students at first are reserved, but then they get to know each other, then the people around them, and then they excel in the free-wheeling environment they study in," says Simon. 

Zhaohui Wu, President, Zhejiang University, begins by saying his university is strategically in a location where there is an opportunity to accelerate connection with technology industries and steer higher education towards matching the needs of opportunities and society. "We have strong and influential scientific research abilities to drive innovation-driven developments," says Wu, who took up his current role in March 2015, having previously served as Zhejiang University’s Assistant President, Vice-President and Executive Vice-President in charge of academic and financial affairs. He is also Chair of the State Expert Committee of the Modern Service Industry. His research focuses on computer science and technology.



As he outlines the topics under discussion, Sung says it used to be the case that Chinese students used to be good at remembering things. However, these days it is less relevant because knowledge can be found with a few clicks. "We need a new way of thinking in a very different era," says Sung, a renowned scientist in gastroenterology and a prolific author in the field who was appointed Mok Hing Yiu Professor of Medicine in recognition of his significant contributions to the prevention and early diagnosis of gastroenterology cancers.

Dr Denis Simon, Executive Vice-Chancellor, Duke Kunshan University, which works in partnership with Chinese and US universities, says the set-up allows for a lot of autonomy in the liberal arts space. "Our programme has been road tested and ensures that Chinese students will find it valuable," says Simon. "The programmes address a lot of the issues and criticisms that Chinese students don’t think out of the box and more globally rounded," adds Simon, who has been in his current role since June 2015. He joined DKU from Arizona State University, where he served as Senior Adviser on China-related strategic initiatives, Executive Director of the University Design Institute, and Foundation Professor of Contemporary Chinese Affairs in the School of Politics and Global Studies. "The curriculum is designed to answer the question, what do you think?" says Simon. "The progammes connect the issues of today and allows people to have a meaningful life," adds Simon.



PRESIDENTS’ SESSION 4: China universities and creativity and innovation

For anyone that has the slightest interest in history, they would be aware of how down through the centuries, China's development and developments within China have played a significant role in the wider context of human development. In the past centuries, the Chinese invented paper, the printing press, paper money, silk, the compass, gunpowder, musical stringed instruments, and many more. Can modern universities in China replicate these achievements in the 21st century? Can universities in China produce global innovative entrepreneurs and a steady stream of Nobel Laureates? These and other topics related to "China’s universities, creativity and innovation" will be put under a spotlight during the fourth Presidents’ Session, chaired by Joseph J.Y. Sung, Vice-Chancellor and President, The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).



With a budget that has grown more than 300 times over 30 years, Yang explains the goal of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NFSC) is to collaborate and achieve results that benefit all human beings. "We can see this happening by the quantity, quality and impact of scientific papers being produced in China," says Yang, who shows a graph published by the highly respected Nature magazine. Comparing data from 2009 and 2014, Yang uses another graph to show how international collaboration, including collaboration with the US, has increased over the five-year period. Within China, Yang says schemes and systems have been put in place to provide seed funding and support national key programmes to bring talent together.



Introduced by Dr Eden Woon, HKUST Vice-President for Institutional Advancement, our sixth and final keynote presentation, "The role of China’s scientific research in its technological drive", will be presented by Wei Yang, President, National Natural Science Foundation of China. Yang says scientific research in a technology climate in China faces some challenges. However, the country is moving up the innovation steps. "Much of our innovation is aimed at achieving goals around sustainability, but there are many roads," says Yang, who took up his current role in 2013, having previously served as President of Zhejiang University. Before that, he was Head of the Department of Degree Management and Graduate Education of China’s Ministry of Education, Head of the Office of Academic Degrees Committee of the State Council in China and Chairman of the Academic Committee of Tsinghua University.



Panel speaker Ross explains that only a small part of rankings looks at teaching because teaching is very difficult to measure. He also reveals THE plans to continue looking for ways to add a more Asian-focused evaluation system. "Across Asia, there are many differences in the way that universities function, they have different biases and can vary from the international measurements," says Ross. Regarding the timing and release of ranking figures, Ross says the biggest single challenge is processing huge amounts of data and avoid clashing with certain times of year, such as Lunar New Year.



Karan Khemka, Partner and Co-Head, The Education Practice at The Parthenon Group announces he has some good news and some bad news. "Education is the seventh on the list of global revenues accounting US$4.5 trillion of turnover and changes the lives of people, communities and countries," says Khemka. Drawing on data, he says currently there are about 120 million seats of higher education capacity across the world, but another 100 million seats of higher education are needed to meet global GDP and worldwide expectations. "It took us 1,000 years to get to where we are so the pressure is on," says Khemka.

For the bad news, Khemka says across Asia some fantastic buildings and faculties have been established, but when Asian students are surveyed, if they have the means, they prefer to study outside of Asia. "If the best and brightest are studying outside of Asia, does this mean universities are losing the talent to do high level research and make an impact on society?" asks Khemka.



Anders Karlsson, Vice-President, Global Academic Relations, Elsevier, provides more details about how universities are ranked and why some of the top universities in Asia do so well. "The growth rate in the volume of papers and the impact of citations, articles and conferences are increasing, changing the landscape of the high ranking universities in Asia," says Karlsson, which is particularly notable in China. In a deep dive into HKUST, Karlsson says the international collaborations are high with the US and Europe, plus other Asian collaboration profiles.

After being placed between seventh and ninth for the past three years, in the newly released Times Higher Education University Rankings 2016, the HKUST was placed sixth – a new high.



Ross says for Asian universities reputations in their own markets offers opportunities, because their research forms a strong connection with their home communities. "From our data, we see pattern of excellence in the areas of what they are trying to achieve, but less so as rounded universities," says Ross, adding that quality of research, as measured by citations, is still a challenge. Ross then reminds the audience that rankings are measured by a series of metrics. In Asia, for example, the faulty-to-student ratio tends to be higher than other places. Research and scientific papers produced in Asia also tend to be higher, but vary across Asian countries. While it doesn’t account for a substantial score in the rankings, an international outlook counts, and this is apparent with Hong Kong universities.



Rankings Master Class

The afternoon session of the inaugural Asia Universities Summit continues with a university ranking master class, which will take a close look at the Times Higher Education (THE) Asia Universities Rankings data with Phil Baty, Editor, THE World University Rankings and Duncan Ross, THE Aata and Analytics Director. The session will also include a presentation on research data from Anders Karlsson, Vice-President, Global Academic Relations, Elsevier, and a look at the strengths and global positioning of Asian universities with Karan Khemka, Partner and Co-Head, The Education Practice at The Parthenon Group.

Describing himself as a bit or a data geek, Ross says he will try not to talk too quickly if he gets excited about the data. He says last year was the first time THE collected the data itself, which includes the quality and value of research not written in English. THE can also evaluate 801 instead of 400 higher education institutions. Ross says he appreciates the help of universities that submit data. He then reveals while the power and influence of rankings counts, in Asia reputation of universities count less than the relationship with industries.

Rankings Master Class panel



Honourary Doctorate

Dr Eden Woon, HKUST Vice-President for Institutional Advancement has just announced that at the end of the year, the HKUST will award Chuanzhi Liu, chairman of the board of Legend Holdings Co. Limited and founder of Lenovo Group Limited  an Honourary Doctorate



Describing some of his own approaches to business, Liu says he tries to prioritise what is urgent and not so urgent, which helps him make the right preparation, and if necessary to  make a detour and deal with what might happen in the future. Liu then stresses that it is the responsibly of entrepreneurs to contribute to helping society. A question from the audience on the topic of risk and disruption, such a those being made by Uber. ‘’ Innovation technology is an unstoppable trend,   the development of technology must continue to meet human needs,’’ says Liu. He continues says if technology was to stand still, societies across the world would go into reverse. ‘’This would help no one, considering how far we have come,’’ notes Liu who is asked about his return to Lenovo as the chairman to oversee a change in management and leadership style and move the company forward. ‘’I was unnerved by some of the inefficiencies, so we built our team with a international team of incentive-based management to streamline many of the processes,’’ says Liu.



Liu says in an era of disruption caused by innovation and technology, property volatility in China, entrepreneurs need to adapt themselves to deal with uncertainties and a commitment to learning to make valued decisions. He says the factors for success can be in-born, but there are others that can be amplified and learnt in a positive and motivating learning environment, which is offered by universities. "I would not have been able to reach my own potential and goals without the benefit of attending university." Reading and showing an interest in unfamiliar areas is another way of building knowledge, suggests Liu. "These days, people spend so much time looking at their mobile phones I fear they are missing what is going on in the wider world," notes Liu. Another suggestion, Liu says inviting business people to speak at universities is another way of encouraging entrepreneurship. "Not just the successes, they need to talk about setbacks and how they dealt with them," says Liu.



Describing what he perceives as the characteristics for success and dealing with the threat of bankruptcy and crisis, including being ripped off, which happened to him three times, Liu says perseverance and higher aspirations are needed. He says the takeover of IBM’s computer business, while it attracted worldwide attention, was not without its challenges. Liu now stresses the importance of compassion and the ability to attract the right people to build and manage a company. "You can only move the ship forward if you do it together and reward people properly," says Liu. "You need to be able to unite people together," adds Liu.



As a renowned businessman, entrepreneur and visionary, Chuanzhi Liu, Chairman of the Board of Legend Holdings Co. Limited and Founder of Lenovo Group Limited is the honoured guest who is providing his views and insights on the topic of "Can university education produce entrepreneurs?"

Liu begins by outlining how he started his career in business after graduating from university. "I jumped off the boat with some friends from the Chinese Research Insitute to start in business," says Liu, who explains they begun by developing a Chinese "input" system. "We bundled together with other users and vendors, at a time when China was largely closed to foreign distributors," says Liu. 



As young universities, the panel says it is important not to drift in terms of focus and to build on core strengths. Also, while empowerment is a powerful tool, there needs to be a framework. "Creativity and taking risks can be a delicate balance," comments Chan. The panel adds that boards of directors and those that advise universities also need to understand why creativity is important, but may be concerned about risk. Dr Abdul Aziz raises an audience laugh by suggesting that listening to supporters and resisting the naysayers might be a strategy to take. As the panel discussion moves towards a close, the presidents agree that at whatever age a university might be, there will inevitably be hurdles to overcome. A member of the audience than notes the presidents on stage represent young universities that have contributed to a dramatic rise in the quality of education and social benefits through their mission and vision supported by government and private individuals and enterprises.



On the topic of university funding, Chan asks how young universities can meet the expectations on financial returns. Hamdullahpu says the returns need to be measured in how and what students upon graduation are able to contribute. "It goes much deeper than just numbers," says Hamdullahpur. Dr Abdul Aziz adds while government funding is important for young universities, funding from other areas to support research and development and using funding creatively is equally important. Chan then asks, with it not being possible to teach creativity, how can creativity be encouraged. Hamdullahpur says providing students from different disciplines with opportunities to work together and discuss problems, leads to problem solving that in itself is creativity. Croft adds having leadership which inspires can promote creativity. Chan continues at his university, a broad education is one path being used to encourage creativity. Kim winds up the topic discussion by saying that ensuring students are aware of social issues and have understanding and empathy often leads to impactful and creative solutions.



Doh-Yeon Kim, President, Pohang University of Science and Technology, located in the southern part of South Korea, also congratulates the HKUST on its 25th anniversary. "There are advantages and disadvantages of being a young university," says Kim. Explaining his rationale, Kim says while a young university can be groundbreaking, a more mature university usually has better resources to support innovation. He then makes the comparison with the business world, and says while companies come and go, universities have to find the ways to form a sustainable future. "Unless you are the HKUST, we have to do something new and different," says Kim, which raises a laugh from the audience. "If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, then go together," says Kim, supporting his belief in partnerships.



Stuart Croft, Vice-Chancellor and President, The University of Warwick, says important element at Warwick is a flat administration. "Nimbleness is the order of the day, where anyone can bring an idea for discussion," says Croft. But for this to work, Croft says there must be a strong reputation, financial resources, strategic partners, in Warwick’s case, Jaguar Landrover, and markets. "Our relationships with other universities that have similar views and context are also important," notes Croft.

Feridun Hamdullahpur, President and Vice-Chancellor, University of Waterloo begins by congratulating HKUST on its 25th anniversary. Hamdullahpur says he asked his three cats if young universities have an advantage over older universities when it comes to innovation, and they gave him no answer. Therefore, Hamdullahpur says it depends on the character and culture of a university. "I would say that universities of any age are looking for the same thing, how can we innovate and how should we innovate?” says Hamdullahpur. "In any situation, I would say excellence needs to be the norm, and understanding the needs and challenges of the world and how they can be related to innovation," says Hamdullahpur, who was appointed president and vice-chancellor of the University of Waterloo in 2011. He is also chair of the U15 group of Canada's research-intensive universities and serves as vice-chair of the Waterloo Global Science Initiative. He is also the author of hundreds of scientific and academic publications.



Shiyi Chen, President, Southern University of Science and Technology, continues the panel discussion by saying the HKUST has been an inspiration and a role model for Southern University of Science and Technology. "HKUST has never been afraid to take new roads and invest in human capital and invest in the framework," says Chen, who notes a new university can be more dynamic and define its own future. With the future defined, Chen says his university can focus on areas such as big data, life science and other developing areas which are not part of the research of older universities. "We can be more liberal in our approach, for example we teach in English and are bold enough to create the environment where entrepreneurs can thrive," says Chen.



With the Summit auditorium full again after the coffee break, Tony F. Chan, President, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, chairs a President’s Session panel featuring six presidents from young universities who will offer their views and insights on the topic of  "Do young universities have an advantage in nurturing innovation?"

Chan begins by saying not only are the universities young, the average age is 25 years old, the presidents are relatively young in their positions. "As a young university, the topic of being dynamic, fixing our own mission and focus is dear to HKUST," says Chan, who adds that HKUST has had a global focus from day one, which has helped us to attract an international faculty. Chan says innovation is often associated with science and technology, but is this really the case he asks?

Datin Dr Anita B Z Abdul Aziz, Vice-Chancellor, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) speaks next and says she defines broadly innovation to teaching and learning and research and not necessarily transforming  research into commercialisation. "From our experience in UBD, I would say we have a small advantage, it is not significant," says Dr Abdul Aziz. She continues, that to drive innovation, UBD insist that students leave the university for a year to take up internships or join cross-discipline projects or take part in social welfare programmes. "We do see a difference for the better in students when they return," says Abdul Aziz.



With a question raised about trigger points in US universities involving the discussion of sensitive topics, Block says as a president it is a concern. "My point would be that if it is made clear that a sensitive discussion is about addressing an issue and not attacking the individual," says Block. "If they can face these issues and understand them while attending university, they may be better places to deal with them in the wider world," he notes. With many UCLA students coming from challenged social-economic backgrounds, Block gives several examples of the funding support mechanisms in place to reduce student debt. He finishes the Q&A session by reveling while UCLA has several hundred students who complete exchange visits to China, substantially more students from China study at UCLA.

John Gill, Editor of the Times Higher Education  (left) Gene Block, chancellor, University of California, Los Angeles



Continuing his theme on avoiding producing one dimensional students, Block says at UCLA more emphasis is being placed on teaching the humanities. "We are not unique and it is no accident that other leading universities around the world recognise the importance of humanities and meld them with the sciences and in doing do, create new and better opportunities for our students," says Block. Beset with challenges, Block explains how Los Angeles has been chosen by UCLA for a special environmental challenge. "We have over 150 projects covering water usage to energy saving," says Block. Depression, according to Block, an illness that is on the rise, is another focus for UCLA. "These areas have really fired up our faculty and students," notes Block, who says he is a strong advocate of students studying overseas where students can broaden their perspectives. For students unable to study abroad, Block says a mixed and diverse campus is a good way to introduce students to different cultures and new ways of thinking. "Educating students today for tomorrow's world," says Block, "is not easy, but can be achieved."



"Preparing the new generation: the role of the university" is the topic for our next keynote presentation which is being delivered by Gene Block, Chancellor, University of California, Los Angeles. "I am proud to be here celebrating HKUST’s 25th anniversary and all that have been achieved in 25 years." He says HKUST have joint partnerships and HKUST President, Professor Tony Chan has strong connection with UCLA. Speaking as a grandfather, Block says thinking ahead about when his grandchildren attend university; a university should provide both education and social skills in a world that is different from today. "There is concern about what universities are teaching, and whether or not humanities are taught ahead of technical subjects," says Block. "As a president and neuroscientist, I would say the humanities must be offered," adds Block, noting that many problems in today’s world are more closely attached to human rather than technical issues. "To function in a changing world, our young people must be roundly educated and have cultural fluency," says Block.



On the topic of innovation and curiosity, Chameau highlights how KAUST professors are risk-taking and enterprising such as a water distillation project and plant scientists are exploring the way edible plants can survive in salt water. "One question I constantly ask when recruiting is what drives their exciting ideas? The goal then is to provide them with an environment where they can thrive with freedom and compete with themselves," says Chameau. Answering a question about encouraging risk-taking, Chameau says it begins with having an environment where risk-taking within a framework is part of the culture. "You have to be willing to accept defeat," stresses Chameau. He then replies to a question about living and working in Saudi Arabia. “Our university is like a small town, and in fact KAUST is modeled on international design, so our campus  and eco-system is very similar to a campus in the US," says Chameau.



Talking about King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Chameau says as a small university, KAUST is building industry partners and sharing innovation developments in a curiosity-driven framework. He says an important factor of the university is to pursue innovative research rather than aim to climb the ranking tables. As a young university, Chameau says another key element is to be a global university with a global outlook, with a cross-discipline partnership culture. "We have a special experiment-driven focus on the water, energy and environment sectors," says Chameau. He adds faculty and students come from all over the world – 90 different countries. "In this environment, we encourage our students and faculty to aim high with passion and freedom," says Chameau.



The two-day event has brought together some 30 university presidents from 15 countries and cities from around the globe to share expert insights on a number of key issues including different challenges facing higher education and research and the various ways universities nurture creativity and innovation.

Considered a rare event to have so many distinguished university presidents gathered in one place, today, the same as yesterday, we can look forward to listening to keynote presentations and panel discussions and discovering many exciting insights and observations covering a broad range of university-related topics. In addition to presentations by presidents from some of the world’s top universities, at lunchtime today, a keynote presentation by Chuanzhi Liu, chairman of the board of Legend Holdings Co. Limited and founder of Lenovo Group Limited will focus on the topic of "Can university education produce entrepreneurs?". Please keep logging in to our live blogging to discover from the experts some of the most relevant issues facing universities today.