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Prof. Chiu Chi-yue, the new Dean of Social Science

Prof. Chiu Chi-yue, Dean of Social Science (Photo by ISO staff)

What plans do you have for the Faculty of Social Science?

Our long-term goals are for the Faculty to be a top choice for global talent from diverse intellectual traditions who aspire to seed and grow an integrated social science, and to be a nurturing academic community for social science students.

We strive to enlighten and inspire. We strive to create social knowledge that is communicable, innovative, rigorous and socially relevant; knowledge that improves the well-being of the individual and that of society; knowledge that will be taught globally; and knowledge that will inform policies and transform societies.

What distinguishes this Faculty from other social science faculties in Hong Kong and how could you build on that?

Among our local peers, CUHK's Social Science Faculty is home to the biggest number of devoted social science researchers and educators, featuring scholars from diverse basic disciplines (economics, geography, psychology, sociology, and political science) and professions (architecture, journalism, and social work). I am proud of our strong humanist tradition and our global perspectives, which remind me of a couplet written by Lin Yutang: '雙腳踏東西文化,一心評宇宙文章' (be well-versed in Asian and Western cultures; be conversant with the great writings of the world). We will move forward with this glorious tradition to decipher complex social phenomena through cross-disciplinary, multi-level research.

Any projects you could share with us?

Many exciting projects are flowering and blossoming in the Faculty. For example, a team of researchers are putting together ideas from geography, economics, psychology, architecture and journalism to design future cities that are not only more efficient, greener but also more humanized. Other projects are at the seeding stage, including cross-disciplinary teaching and research programmes designed to promote global awareness and multicultural competence.

Religio-cultural differences sometimes express themselves in tragic forms. How could education in the social sciences contribute to an understanding of other cultures?

Cultures differ. Cultural differences, if managed properly, can motivate intercultural learning, inspire ideas, and lead to innovation and cultural change. If managed badly, cultural differences can fuel intercultural conflicts, animosity and even terrorism. Sociologist Fei Xiaotong envisioned that harmonious societies will develop if social groups are empowered to develop its unique strengths, and to appreciate and harmonize the unique strengths of all groups for the society's well-being (各美其美,美人之美,美美與共,天下大同). Social science research and education can make important contributions to this vision.

What have you learnt at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore that you could bring to CUHK?

NTU is a rapidly rising university in Asia. It has relatively young and highly energetic professors who champion progressive reforms in the University. I admire NTU's unwavering determination to turn itself into a world-class university. I am impressed by their reliance on hard data to inform policies and decision-making. At CUHK, we benefit from our tradition and a wealth of experience and wisdom. Our decision-making process is democratic and centred on the professoriate staff. There is always something universities can learn from each other.

How do you feel about returning to Hong Kong after spending a considerable length of time overseas studying and teaching?

I left Hong Kong in 2002, five years after the handover. Prior to my departure, I taught at HKU and my wife at UST. We studied Hong Kong's social identities before and after 1997 and observed increasingly stronger identification with being Chinese during the transition. I returned last year, only to find Hong Kong in the middle of the Occupy Central Movement. The value of social science education and research cannot be overstated for the future of Hong Kong.

Why did you take up psychology? Have you observed any cultural differences in the discipline as practised or taught in the US and in Asia?

I wanted to be a novelist when I was young. Then I learned from my mentor that a good writer needs to understand people. After reading the works of Freud and D.H. Lawrence, I was attracted to psychology. The psychology I practise now is a serious science, but I am still a literature fan and an occasional poet.

Psychology in the West grew out from philosophy and seeks to offer scientific answers to foundational problems in philosophy, such as 'What is the nature of human consciousness?', 'What is the relationship between body and mind?', and 'What constitutes human sociality?' Psychology in Asia is more concerned with solving practical problems, and many Asian students are curious about the practical applications of psychology in clinical, educational and business settings.


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