This Strategic Development document is prepared in a time of considerable fluidity in the planning environment in which the University finds itself. The indeterminacy of future planning is heightened by the worldwide economic crisis, the long term effects of which are still unknown.
On the global scale, there will undoubtedly be changes in the demand for tertiary education, the type and speed of technology development, the international flow of people and the implementation of ideas, etc, but these are at present difficult to predict. There will be increased requirements for innovation in the creation, dissemination and use of knowledge. In universities, these will involve not only the core activities of teaching and learning and research, but also the capabilities for increasing the impact of knowledge exchange. Essentially this demands a broader, more innovative role for these institutions.
In recent years there have been two major factors affecting tertiary education, massification or the need to expand the scale of teaching and handle a more culturally and socially diverse student population, and globalization. The pressures brought about by massification of higher learning revolve around the maintenance of high quality education for the more numerous and diverse student population, and for research-led institutions, the simultaneous enhancement of the quantity and quality of research. Globalization in higher education is associated with mobility of ideas, people, technology and financial resources. Worldwide, higher education is an area for both competition and collaboration. This is exemplified on the one hand by the rise in prominence of international league tables, and on the other, by the importance of multinational networks such as Universitas 21.
As globalization intensifies, organizations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have recognized the increased importance and relevance of tertiary education. At the same time there is a growing demand from students and their eventual employers for programmes that have a strong international component. The latter refers to the content of the curriculum as well as exposure to different cultures, both of which help develop intercultural skills and competencies.
For research-led universities, such as the University of Hong Kong, there has always been a heavy reliance on reputation and prestige to garner support for their activities. Rankings and league tables, which have to date focused largely on these research-led institutions, are now a permanent part of the higher education landscape and cannot be disregarded in setting institutional strategies.
Regional and Local Environments
In the last five years, Asia-Pacific has become a region of considerable importance in tertiary education, and the issue for Hong Kong and its leading university is no longer whether to engage with the rest of the world, but how to engage in and benefit from internationalization. The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government has outlined six areas for future development amongst which education ranks high. The notion of Hong Kong as a regional education hub has been widely debated and has recently been augmented by a clear intention to develop more private tertiary institutions which will initially be expected to offer a range of undergraduate programmes. There is no doubt, given the experience of the rest of the world, that some of these institutions will eventually wish to develop their own research activities. The roles of and relationships between the increasing number of universities in Hong Kong will have to be carefully worked out if, indeed, the concept of a regional education hub is to be truly successful. At the same time, the University Grants Committee, which at present oversees the eight publicly funded institutions in Hong Kong, has commenced a Higher Education Review, intended to look at the sector in a comprehensive manner, benchmarking with constituencies outside of Hong Kong. Issues such as institutional role differentiation, quality assurance, funding, knowledge exchange and community relations, internationalization and collaboration with the rest of China will be integral to the review.
As Hong Kong and the rest of China integrate further, especially in the rapidly expanding Pearl River Delta region, there will be numerous opportunities for additional collaboration and expansion of operations.
In 2012, the publicly funded institutions will move from a 3-year to a 4-year normative undergraduate programme. This renaissance in the educational system in Hong Kong provides a unique opportunity to reaffirm our goal of providing an outstanding student-centred learning experience and to renew our commitment to a university education distinguished by its international outreach and outlook.
Unique East-West Gateway Role
The University of Hong Kong is well placed to serve a unique role, and its contributions are certainly not limited to the HKSAR. By taking advantage of its geographical location and cultural background as well as its long tradition of being an international, English-medium tertiary institution in Asia, the University is ideally positioned to bring together East and West, and to bridge Mainland China and the region with the rest of the world. Given its stature and reputation, it can act strategically as a contributor to the economic, scientific, infrastructural, educational, social and cultural developments of China and the region.
Planning Process and Consultations
Development of the strategic plan for 2009-2014 commenced in 2007 and has involved consultations and brain-storming sessions with a wide range of University stakeholders including the Council and Senior Management Team, Deans and Department Heads, and staff, students and alumni. Members of the University family were also encouraged to provide feedback through an online questionnaire.
It emerged from the discussions and consultation sessions that as well as a shared pride in our academic successes, cultural diversity and a strong alumni network, there is a general recognition of the strategic importance of accelerating internationalization and strengthening the use of English as the lingua franca on our campus. Sentiments have also been expressed that the University should enhance its national presence, specifically utilizing the unique position of the University as a gateway between China and the West. Views have been heard on the need for the University to emphasize and reconfirm its longstanding dedication to nurturing leaders for society. Many of the ideas and comments received have been used to refine and strengthen the strategic framework for 2009-2014 as presented in this document.
Faculty and Unit Level Plans
The University’s Strategic Development document sets out broad principles and institutional priorities that individual Faculties, centres and units, through their annual development plans, seek to implement in line with their specific missions. It is intended to set an institutional framework in which the individual academic units will operate, and unit level development plans will include goals, targets, deliverables and outcomes as appropriate.