Great things often spring from very small beginnings. When the OUHK was established in 1989, 30 years ago, it began operating with a core staff of just 39 personnel. Three decades later, when I cast my eyes over the guests attending our Closing-of-the-year Luncheon on 25 January 2019 for the launch of our 30th anniversary celebrations, the sight of almost 700 colleagues and friends in attendance at the event was a deeply moving one. Such a huge increase in the number of people directly involved with the OUHK speaks volumes about the advances we have made on numerous fronts over the past 30 years.
One significant change has been in the physical space occupied by the University. In 1989, we began operating from a small rented suite in the Hennessy Centre in Causeway Bay, catering wholly for distance learning students. This was inadequate, and the following year we moved to premises in Mong Kok, occupying several floors of the Trade Department Tower there. It soon became clear, though, that a permanent campus would be necessary for us to achieve our goals, and in 1996 we moved into a brand new purpose-built building on part of our current site in Ho Man Tin. Since then, the campus has expanded and its facilities have become more diverse and more sophisticated year by year. The Campus Phase Two Building opened in 2008, followed six years later by the Jockey Club Campus nearby, making a new base for a host of new programmes. With the memories of unveiling these two buildings still fresh, I am thrilled by our latest project-in-progress, the new Jockey Club Institute of Healthcare and associated campus facilities that are being spurred on by magnanimous donations from a host of philanthropists, and I look forward in full confidence the role it will play in replenishing Hong Kong’s much needed healthcare workforce.
These physical changes have been paralleled by an expansion in the academic structure of the University to match our growing student population. From having three Schools in place at our founding — the Schools of Arts and Social Sciences, Business and Administration (renamed to Lee Shau Kee School of Business and Administration), and Science and Technology — we now have six. The three new schools — the School of Education and Languages, the School of Nursing and Health Studies, and the Li Ka Shing Institute of Professional and Continuing Education (LiPACE) — all bear witness to the way the University has kept a constant eye on social trends and the changing needs of Hong Kong. Perhaps most dramatically, from offering a total of eight course options to our foundation students, we now have over 800 courses on offer, aligned with an exceptional diversity of programmes which are constantly being updated and revised to match new needs and new demand from the Government, businesses, and other stakeholders.
Naturally, these developments have been largely driven by an exponential rise in student numbers, especially once we moved into providing full-time programmes. From an initial student body of around 4,000 in 1989, all of whom were distance learners, we have grown so that today we serve about 10,000 full-time and about 9,000 part-time students. We are indeed proud to have reached a point where we are able to contribute such a large number of skilled and well-qualified graduates each year to serve the needs of Hong Kong.
The lives of universities are often measured in centuries, and the individuals associated with them experience only the smallest windows of their venerable history. In my own case, I feel especially privileged that, on the occasion of the University’s 30th Anniversary, I have been part of its development for some two-thirds of its existence so far. I do feel that I have been in the presence of something very special, and am honoured to have been involved with the growth and development of this institution over much of its first 30 years. Its progress has been exceptional, and it is my strong belief that what has been achieved so far will serve as a firm and deep-rooted foundation for even better things to come in the next 30 years.Charles Lee Yeh-kwong