HKUST’s 24th Congregation

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Reaching for new heights

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 9:54am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 November, 2016, 9:55am

Nurturing Whole Person Development through World Class Education

Thanks to the concerted efforts and meticulous planning from all levels, HKUST has managed to rise above a myriad of challenges which have confronted the whole higher education sector over the past few years, a major one being the transition into a new four-year undergraduate system in 2012. HKUST celebrated with awe today the graduation of its first cohort of students who completed the new curriculum in gratitude.

Following the transition, the University identified the need to enrich and broaden the existing educational framework to cater for the needs of student population which are often mixed in terms of academic interests, talents, and career aspirations. “An one-size fits-all approach is simply not the most effective response to the diversity”, remarked Professor Shyy, Executive Vice-President and Provost.  In 2013, a tri‐modal educational framework has been developed in addition to the well‐established, credit-driven degree programmes. HKUST added two learning modes – experiential learning through students-led courses and accelerated courses - to further broaden the learning experience of our undergraduate students.  In 2015/16, around 15 courses with experiential learning components were offered with a total enrolment of around 500 students.

Building on current framework, the university is actively planning to develop, in partnership with industry such as DJI, a full-fledged UG programme major, which will be practicum-oriented and team-based.   “The major will offer a project-driven learning mode and internship engagement for participants who are not grade driven but are self-motivated with passion for certain areas.  Specifically, students would develop their own curriculum and decide the pertinent courses for accomplishment of the group project(s).  This major will provide immense learning opportunities for the students who are interested in outside-regular curriculum activities and self-directed learning,” said Professor Wei Shyy.

HKUST has also enhanced education in entrepreneurship – a signature element of the University. A minor program in entrepreneurship, used to be offered jointly by the School of Business and Management and School of Engineering, is revamped into a University–wide program offered by all four schools. The University is also exploring to work with up-and-coming universities beyond North America on global entrepreneurship programs and events.

To strengthen the University’s interdisciplinary efforts, the 25th anniversary clustered hiring in its five new research focuses is going full steam ahead.  They include data science; robotics and autonomous systems; energy and sustainability; design and entrepreneurship; and public policy.  In alignment with clustered faculty hiring, cross-disciplinary research institute or centers have also been established, thus encouraging collaboration on high-impact large-scale projects across fields.

On top of student diversity, HKUST is committed to fostering faculty diversity in terms of gender, nationalities and professional backgrounds to offer students with role models and nourish an intellectually-stimulating climate.  At present, over 50 per cent of HKUST students can spend at least a seminar exchanging in a foreign country. 

We also beefed up internship opportunities for students. For example, HeadStart@HKUST, a program that combines mentorship, internship and fellowship to offer student a “head-start” in an increasingly global and competitive society.  As a pioneer in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), HKUST has introduced more e-learning opportunities this year by creating the first specialization on full stack web development on the MOOC platform Coursera. 


Interdisciplinary Research Broadens and Deepens Our Impact

HKUST’s research excellence is recognized through top-level funding support both locally and internationally.  Apart from leading our local peers in the University Grants Committee (UGC)’s Research Assessment Exercise in 2014, an independent assessment of research quality, HKUST researchers consistently achieved the highest success rate in the bids for the General Research Fund from the Research Grants Council (RGC). In 2015-16, HKUST secured total external research funding of HK$578 million, which include HK$173 million from RGC. In the last five years, we have also received the largest number of the Hong Kong (RGC) PhD Fellowship Scheme awardees among local institutions attracting the brightest talent from 28 countries including Mainland China, Germany, Greece, India, Korea and the United Kingdom.  “HKUST continues to attract the brightest talents from all over the world.”  Prof Joseph Lee

In a world where research challenges are increasingly complex, HKUST continues to build on our established strengths to broaden our research across Schools, and encourage top minds from various disciplines to work together on finding solutions.  To this end, HKUST has set up interdisciplinary platforms, e.g. Big Data Institute, Robotics Institute, Energy Institute, Institute for Public Policy, and Institute for Emerging Market Studies.

“We have an excellent research infrastructure, we provide an inspiring environment, we also partner with industry and engage the community, all these together help us in moving the boundary of knowledge forward and deepen our impact,” said Prof Nancy Ip, newly appointed Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies.

Researchers at HKUST continued to make major scientific breakthrough.  Prof Nancy Ip, who led the State Key Laboratory of Molecular Neuroscience at HKUST, has identified a protein that recovers memory loss in mice which may become a potential treatment for diseases like Alzheimer’s.  Prof Zhang Mingjie’s recent discovery of a new mechanism underlying autism has also promised to inspire development of new treatment methods for the ailment.  Prof Henry He Yan, has made repeated breakthrough in organic solar cells over the past two years which has made commercialization of the much cleaner power source possible. 

HKUST was also awarded two prestigious Hong Kong Branches of Chinese National Engineering Research Center (CNERC) by the Ministry of Science and Technology; one for Tissue Restoration and Reconstruction, headed by Prof Tang Benzhang, concentrating on new luminescent materials and their hi-tech applications in biomedical sensors and chemical probes. The other for Control and Treatment of Heavy Metal Pollution, led by Prof Chen Guanghao, to address increasing national demand for clean water supply. These two new national research facilities complement the existing two Partner State Key Laboratories (PSKLs) – one on molecular neuroscience and another on advanced displays and optoelectronics technologies, to foster research cooperation between Hong Kong and Mainland China.


Forging Ties and Partnerships

The 25th anniversary of HKUST offered the University a chance to celebrate its successes and achievements with a series of special events and celebrations, both local and global.  Among events such as community social responsibility volunteering and local high school mentoring outreach, the anniversary also includes a Distinguished Speakers Series (DSS) which has seen Nobel laureates, leading academics and influential figures from the business world addressing issues of global importance; international alumni conferences, and a Times Higher Education (THE) Summit with presidents of more than 30 top universities coming as speakers. 

Dr Woon, Vice-President for Institutional Advancement, noted that insights gleaned from DSS talks and the Times Higher Education Summit, which brought together leading figures from the academic world to focus on how tertiary-level institutions can nurture creativity and innovation, have sometimes helped to point the way forward.  

Mindful of the impact of new technology, and the changing demands of education and research, HKUST has been taking steps to expand its ties with the mainland and abroad. It is also strengthening links with leading high-tech businesses, and raising funds to enhance on-campus facilities and the overall quality of student life. 

HKUST recently signed another strategic partnership agreement with Sweden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, adding on to its eight strategic partners which cover the likes of the University of Southern California, EPFL of Switzerland, Technion - Israel Institute of Technology, and Shanghai Jiao Tong University.  HKUST also has collaborations with businesses like Alibaba, BGI, Huawei, Lenovo, Tencent, Aviation Industry Corporation of China and other fast-moving mainland companies on joint research projects, workshops and academic exchanges, and collaborations with Cisco, Schneider, Thales, and Microsoft are priority focus as well for HKUST.

“We are proud of everything that has been achieved in the last 25 years, thanks to students, faculty, staff and alumni,” Dr Woon said. “We are now at a crossroads.  Looking ahead 25 years, we foresee a very dynamic and challenging landscape.  The university will need to adapt and progress, so we are not resting on our laurels.” 

Dr Woon, who’s also the chairman of the 25th anniversary organizing committee, said many of the celebrative activities have demonstrated the international reach of HKUST.  “It was unprecedented to have so many presidents and senior officials fly in from around the world to the 25th Anniversary celebration banquet on June 19,” he said. “It really showed the international footprint of our university, which was also highlighted by our global alumni conferences in London, San Francisco, Beijing and Singapore.”

Dr Woon said the HK$1 billion gift raised by the 25th anniversary will allow HKUST to invest more in research, scholarships, professorships and infrastructure including sports centers and student dormitories and a performing arts auditorium, as well as hiring of specialists in HKUST’s five research strategic areas.

“At the end of the day, internationalization is hard work and not just statistics, with integration of students and faculty with the global world being the key.  And HKUST is well on its way,” Dr. Woon added.


Top-rated Campus with a conscience

The University has continued to enhance its facilities to enrich the academic, research and campus experience. In 2015/16, it continues to strive for a more efficient and effective administration, and conducted a series of process review and system upgrades to ensure administrative matters are handled in the most effective way.

HKUST is committed to creating a more eco-friendly campus and taking a leadership role in motivating the wider community. It has launched the HKUST 2020 Sustainability Challenge, to commit to an ambitious strategic resource reductions in greenhouse gases and waste. Strategies and plans are in place, such as converting food waste into fish feed, further reducing solid waste on campus and increased collection points of for recycled materials. To echo with the five strategic areas, sustainability education is also launched in our undergraduate common core, further building students’ ownership and environmental project management capabilities.

“We believe through sustainability projects, we are also instilling the value of environmental care in our students and demonstrating our share of social responsibilities as a university.” Mr Mark Hodgson, Vice-President for Administration and Business said.

With a healthy mindset, HKUST is also enhancing our campus environment to build a healthy body. The University has made progress with the Water Sports Centre which take advantage of the beautiful shoreline and the indoor sports facilities, which aim to provide further variety in sports facilities to our students and staff.

Furthermore, with generous donation, HKUST is able to improve on our campus facilities. The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust supported the construction of a new hostel for research postgraduate students to be named Jockey Club Global Graduate Tower. Mr Martin Ka Shing Lee made a donation for the construction of an Innovation Building that will take the University’s innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives to the next level, encouraging a collaboration between academia and the commercial world.  A donation from The Shaw Foundation Hong Kong Ltd made possible the construction of a multi-purpose auditorium, enabling more variety of activities on campus and further enriching on-campus lives.