The 30th Anniversary of the OUHK has proved an excellent opportunity to reflect on what the University has achieved over time. There are many aspects to those achievements. One of the most important ones is the advances we have made in the quality, scope and effectiveness of the education we offer. This in turn has been reflected by our ever-expanding student population. Further, it has shown itself in the many achievements of our students, both academically and in terms of their creative, social and sporting activities.
One of the most significant steps of the past 30 years was our transformation from a distance learning institute into a full-fledged university offering both full-time and part-time programmes. The OUHK made the decision to focus its educational development on ways that would provide new and in-demand sectors and industries with the talent they needed to grow. Our success in gauging the needs of society has been shown by the scale of the subsidies we have received from the Government under its Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors (SSSDP), which is designed to encourage educational institutions to provide programmes to support specific growth sectors of the local economy.
Academic activity at the OUHK goes far beyond a simply vocational focus, however. Another change over the years has been the significant enhancement of the scale and quality of the research activities being undertaken here. I think it is now true to describe the OUHK’s research scene as ‘flourishing’, a fact that can be seen not only from the University’s success in its applications for funding from the Government’s Research Grants Council, but also from the regular international conferences and similar events that are now a feature of the University diary, and which have been particularly evident in this Anniversary year.
Ultimately, the quality of the education experience we provide is measured by the quality of the graduates we produce. Chapter 2 of this Review goes into detail about some of the most outstanding student performances of the past year. Taken together, these achievements show that in their time at the OUHK, many of our students are unlocking some remarkable talents and learning how to apply these talents in their fields of interest.
These educational achievements are very precious, and we are determined to build on what has been achieved to maintain the powerful forward momentum that the University has generated over time. This is the purpose of our new Strategic Plan, which maps out a series of goals and strategies for reaching these goals over the coming five years. I am very excited about some of the strategies we have planned to implement the Strategic Plan. For example, our efforts to enhance our teaching quality further will see the adoption of new and innovative pedagogies. Greater student engagement will be a key theme of our plans to make the student learning experience even better, including expanded exchange and internship opportunities, and more support for student participation in competitions. This student focus will also involve attention to our campus learning environment, through initiatives such as sustainability and smart technology features, better space utilization, and possibly further site expansion and the provision of residential facilities. On the academic side, we plan to encourage research in strategic niche areas where our staff are active, as well as enriching our research-based postgraduate programmes and further expanding our international research networks. Finally, ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak, we will be embarking on practical measures to strengthen our internal performance culture and governance quality, in order to ensure that the University continues to run seamlessly and smoothly in support of its mission.
The OUHK already has a strong reputation for the quality of its teaching, and some may ask just how we expect to improve it further. We have been leveraging our traditional strengths in the development of learning materials to produce textbooks that are specifically customized for our students. These textbooks, based on core materials available from the market, but adapted and supplemented by in-house study guides and multimedia features, are increasingly being used in conjunction with self-developed learning apps designed to optimize students’ learning outcomes. At another level, the University is investing a sizable amount to expand the existing Quality Enhancement Measures introduced to improve the quality of teaching and learning. That money will mainly be spent on improving the staff to student ratio, strengthening research that will inform teaching, and supporting students’ expenses associated with the numerous study tours, exchange and immersion programmes, overseas internships, external competitions and other academic activities that they will have available to them.
This brings me to another key point. Although our educational mission is focused on the good of Hong Kong, we are keenly aware that we are part of a globalized world. The expanded Global Immersion Programme, among others, gives all our full-time undergraduate and postgraduate Business students the opportunity to travel overseas to take part in academic and cultural exchanges, study tours, and similar activities. Set up in 2017, the Programme was made mandatory for all relevant students from 2018–19. To date, our students have participated in visits to partner universities in the UK, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan, and the scope of these visits is set to widen in the years ahead.
At a regional level, we are expecting to see increased collaboration between educational institutions in Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau as a result of the Greater Bay Area development plan, launched by the Central Government in 2017. This is another area in which the OUHK is expecting to participate, as a natural extension of our ambitions to be a significant university player in today’s globalized world. We have already begun looking closely at potential opportunities for educational collaborations with partner institutions across the Greater Bay Area.
Some of the overseas universities visited by our students are large and physically striking; but it has been heartening this year to observe the development of the OUHK’s new Jockey Club Institute of Healthcare (IOH) and to see the University’s own physical space continue to expand impressively. The IOH will certainly add to the University’s advanced facilities on completion, and further enhance the OUHK’s reputation for providing state-of-the-art training in advanced healthcare.
The academic and educational initiatives I have described do not emerge from a void — much thought and planning at management level goes into keeping the University moving forward successfully. It is absolutely vital that our senior management team remains fresh, and so I am delighted to welcome some new members this year who are bringing new ideas and new vitality to the table. They include the new Dean of the School of Science and Technology, Prof. Philips Wang Fu-lee, the new Dean of LiPACE, Dr Benjamin Chan, and our new Librarian, Mr Owen Tam.
It is an exciting time to be part of the OUHK, with the University making an increasing mark in terms of its educational leadership and innovation. With committed and experienced staff, aspirational and hard-working students, and generous donors, the University is exceptionally well-placed to continue the process of transformation that has been ongoing in recent years. I warmly encourage all our stakeholders to play what parts they can, as together we strive to make the OUHK the best that it can be.Yuk-Shan Wong