Newsletter Special Issue (2002)

Open Letter to Staff and Students of the Universi ty Dear colleagues and students, In October 1995 I wrote an open letter to you as I was about to take up the Vice-Chancellorship. The last paragraph of that letter reads: I have struggled with myself over whether I should accept the appointment as Vice- Chancellor of The Chinese University of Hong Kong. I do not care whether the Vice- Chancellor's pay is higher or lower than my present income, but I really do not want to give up my medical practice. ...If I have to leave my teaching position in the Faculty of Medicine, it must be for a worthier cause which needs my services more. Today, some seven years later, I have tendered my resignation to the University Council, in order to take up the invitation to be the Secretary for Education and Manpower of the Hong Kong SAR Government, commencing 1st August 2002. As I cast my thoughts back to 1995, I am amazed by the great similarity between my dilemmas then and now. What exercised my mind was whether I should relinquish my work at The Chinese University at this point in time, and whether I could offer more in the new position. Does the University need me more, or the community as a whole? I have served The Chinese University for 20 full years, first as Head of the Department of Surgery, where my task was to heal the sick, advance the frontiers of knowledge, and train the young to become responsible doctors. As I moved on to become Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, my mission expanded and I set myself to improve teaching, promote research, strengthen facilities, and recruit talent. When I became Vice- Chancellor, I was expected to lead the University through the 1997 transition towards a new era of development in the 21st century. A l l these years my work has centred around education — from teaching medicine to managing a medical faculty, and from that to shaping a university's growth. It was indeed my good fortune that, in these various positions, I was able to serve an increasingly larger sector of the University community, each time in a different role. In my new post I shall continue to serve the education community of which The Chinese University is an integral part, only that this time my task w i ll be even broader. We are all aware that many of the woes besetting higher education in Hong Kong have stemmed from inadequacies in primary and secondary education and, as such, cannot be resolved on their own. How the education infrastructure is to be overhauled is a formidable subject requiring careful review from many perspectives and at many levels. This is a matter of great concern to all conscientious educationists. Now an opportunity arises in which I may use my experience gained at The Chinese University of Hong Kong to set goals and accord priorities for the Hong Kong education system, and to redistribute resources for the overall improvement of education standards. I see it as an opportunity, indeed an obligation, to put myself to greater use, with the betterment of education in Hong Kong as the ultimate objective. I am looking forward to the responsibilities and challenges ahead. It was a pledge I made early in my V i ce- Chancellorship that I would be fully committed to institutional autonomy and academic freedom, efficient management, greater academic interflow w i th both mainland and international institutions, the procurement of additional resources from the community at large, and the fair distribution of the same. I set my objective at no less than bringing The Chinese University to the uppermost notch of higher education in Hong Kong and the neighbouring region. I have never relaxed my vigilance over these commitments in the last six years. The University's autonomy has never been compromised during the period and our academic staff have been as free as they want to be in their scholarly pursuits. Rigorous internal audits and management efficiency reviews have continued uninterrupted, resulting in significant cost savings and productivity gains, and winning commendation from the University Grants Committee. We have also persistently cultivated international relations, producing extensive links with centres of excellence worldwide. Thanks to the generosity of our many benefactors, support in the form of donations has dramatically surged, and has been indispensable in maintaining the quality of teaching and learning, sustaining important research, imp r ov i ng facilities, and upgrading the campus environment. On the so l id f ounda t i on l a id by my three predecessors, the University has gone from strength to strength, achieving progress on all fronts. We are glad to have been allocated the largest slice of the UGC block grant for the 2001-4 triennium, an allocation that was based on our performance in teaching and research. We are also gratified that the Early Admissions Scheme, newly introduced this year for outstanding Secondary Six students by all tertiary institutions, has attracted the largest number of applicants to The Chinese University of Hong Kong when compared with other local tertiary institutions, a sure indication of our popularity among the best of Hong Kong school students. By the time you read this letter, you shall have known too that our business school has just been ranked the number one MBA school in Asia Pacific. The news could not have come at a more opportune moment as my best farewell gift from the University. The Chinese University as we know it today is a mature and well-run institution of higher learning, fully confident of its own potentials, and all out to scale new heights in different dimensions. Indeed, with the advent of a new millennium, many new academic programmes have been launched in response to the needs of a knowledge-based society and a new economy. Academic and administrative units have also been asked to define their respective visions and missions, identify their areas of strength, and formulate action plans for the coming years. It is now obvious that the University has all the software to pursue excellence — staff and students of calibre, high morale, and a conviction for success. And much of the hardware to go with it will become available soon. In the pipeline are a Centre for Chinese Archaeology and Art, phase II of the Engineering Bu i l d i ng Complex, extension facilities for the Faculty of Education and its through- train primary and secondary schools, a teaching hotel, a new block for the clinical departments of the Faculty of Medicine, a purpose-designed building for centralized science laboratories, an extension to the University Administration Building, new student hostels, and a teaching centre at the Bank of America Tower in Central. Everywhere on the campus are signs of growth and expansion, bearing testimony to the vitality of a thriving university. Imbued with a sense of direction and with all the necessary support systems properly instituted, the University is well on a stable, defined course towards progress and greater achievements. What really distressed me was not being able to disclose the government's invitation earlier, due to procedural technicalities, which led to unnecessary speculation and worries, created difficulties in hand-over arrangements, and increased the workload of many colleagues. I am relieved to note that all has now been settled and am grateful to those who are affected for being so understanding and obliging in the process. I thank them sincerely for all the help they have rendered me. Twenty years here and The Chinese University has become an inseparable part of my personal growth and career development, and it w i l l always occupy a prominent place in my heart. What tugs me time and again on the eve of my departure are the many fond memories of the things we did together, the days we spent together, the achievements we have made together. Equally hard it is for me not to be remembering the arguments and adversities that we had, the crises and controversies that we faced, the heat and the heartache that we endured. Through these tribulations we have learnt to unite and work as a team; we have turned trials into strength and reinforced our bonds, with much the same spirit that holds the University as it now proudly stands. While I must leave this lovely campus to take up my new duties, my thoughts w i ll always be with you. And I eagerly look forward to being invited to join you to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the University next year. Arthur K.C. L i 25th July 2002