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Speech at the World Universities Forum 2011


14 January 2011 (Friday) at 9 am


World Universities Forum 2011


Speech by Mrs Cherry Tse, JP

Permanent Secretary for Education



Professor (Anthony) Cheung, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,



Good morning.  I am honoured to be present among so many distinguished educators and policy makers here this morning.  May I extend a warm welcome to all of you to Hong Kong.



The focus of this year’s Forum is “Asia Rising and the Changing Architecture of Global Higher Education”.  Although I have assumed my post a month ago, it has come to my attention that the education scene has undergone remarkable development in recent years.  I congratulate the Hong Kong Institute of Education for taking the initiative to host this international forum so that we can pool our minds together to ponder on the role and future of higher education in this exciting era.



Changing landscape of the higher education



Globalisation and the advent of technology have transformed the higher education sector.  We witness the emergence of exciting opportunities for study and research beyond national boundaries.  We also see an exponential growth in international mobility of faculties and students.  According to a report from OECD, the number of foreign students has increased by 50% between 2000 and 2005 alone[1].  Some estimate that the number of international students will rise from 1.8 million in 2000 to 7.6 million in 2025.  Of this, Asia is predicted to represent 70% of global demand by the end of that period, with China and India expected to supply 50% of that demand[2]. 



The changes go beyond a mere increase in number.  The pattern is also changing.  In the past, students aspiring to pursue overseas studies looked for education opportunities primarily in the West.  Most of the students also stayed in the country after graduation.  With the rising significance of Asia, both economically and politically, more and more students from all over the world are seeking education opportunities within the region.  Students hope to build up their networks and get a head start in gaining a foothold in this part of the world.  President Obama’s pledge to send 100,000 US students to China is a prime example of this rising trend.  Furthermore, whereas many Asian students stayed in the West after graduation in the past, more and more of them are now choosing to return to the East to start their career.



Institutions’ role



So what are the implications of these changes to institutions?  Amidst these changes, the core mission of our universities remains unchanged: our institutions have been, and will continue to be, the centre for nurturing talents and future leaders.  We also look to universities to advance the frontier of knowledge and discovery for the betterment of humankind.    



Whilst reaffirming its core mission, the higher education sector is also expected to rise to the new challenges with new strategies.  With an increasingly integrated world economy, institutions are broadening opportunities for international collaboration and building international knowledge network.  We need to learn from each other.  Today’s Forum epitomizes institutions’ efforts in this area.



Institutions also have an added responsibility to nurture students with an international outlook.  With the emergence of Asia as the world’s growth engine, we must cultivate students with a global perspective, a regional understanding and the ability to interact within multi-cultural settings.  In short, we look to the higher education sector to groom the global citizens of tomorrow.



The impact of globalization goes much deeper.  In making the world smaller, it also brings to the fore the differences in cultures and civilizations.  Whether the differences will enrich humankind or trigger conflicts will hinge on whether we have a capacity for empathetic understanding, or whether we are bent on imposing our own values and systems onto the others.  And universities, as the pinnacle of education, have a special role to play in nurturing this cross-cultural sensitivity and contributing to world peace. 



As pinnacle of learning, universities exercise also a key wash back effect on the entire education system.  Schools prepare students to the admission requirements of popular universities.  Therefore, education in different sectors must be seen as an organic whole, a continuum with interacting elements.  Closer network between the school and university sectors will be conducive to the holistic development of our future generation.  I am pleased to inform you that Hong Kong has taken the opportunity of the New Academic Structure to revamp the curriculum at the secondary school and university levels and to foster closer interface between them.



Government’s role



What about the Government?  What is the Government’s role in this process?



Many governments are mapping out new policies and strategies.  For instance, Qatar, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates stand out as examples of countries that have promoted internationalisation as a matter of national policies.  In this region alone, we have seen many initiatives.  To name a few, there is the Global Schoolhouse initiative of Singapore, BrainKorea 21 Project and the World Class University Project of South Korea and the Global 30 initiative of Japan.  All of these initiatives target at attracting more international students. 



Hong Kong shares the same vision.  It is our aspiration to develop Hong Kong as a regional education hub through internationalisation and diversification.  To this end, we have launched a basket of measures to develop Hong Kong as a regional education hub.  For instance, we have doubled the non-local student quotas from 10% to 20%.  We have relaxed immigration and employment restrictions so that non-local students can have part-time jobs, internship and have unconditional stay for 12 months after graduation.  We have established the $1 billion HKSAR Government Scholarship Fund for meritorious non-local and local students.  We have also launched the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme that aims at attracting the best and brightest students in the world to pursue their PhD programmes in Hong Kong's institutions.  We will also introduce a $2.5 billion endowment fund to support the development of our private education sector.



We are pleased to note that our efforts have started to bear fruit.  The number of non-local students has more than doubled since the 2005/06 academic year.  Student exchange activities have become more prevalent.  We reckon that every one out of around six undergraduate students in each cohort are involved in exchange activities.  There are also more overseas students coming to Hong Kong on exchange every year, broadening the horizons of our local students and internationalising our campuses.  We expect that the number will increase even further when our undergraduate programmes are extended by one year from 2012/13 onwards, allowing students more opportunities to go abroad.  The Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme is also receiving international attention.  We have received applications from 103 economies in 2011/12.  Many non-local students also find our new immigration rules attractive.  Between May 2008 (when the scheme was put in place) and October 2010, about 9 800 non-local graduates have been approved to stay or work in Hong Kong under the new arrangements.



Last year, we worked closely with our higher education institutions to step up exchange and promotion in the region.  For example, our senior officials led delegations consisting of high-level representatives from our higher institutions to Malaysia and Indonesia in May 2010, Korea and Japan in July 2010 and India in November 2010.  These visits aim to establish ties with the education sector of the targeted countries and update them on Hong Kong’s latest initiatives in the development of education services.  Besides visiting government officials and various education institutions, education seminars and exhibitions were arranged to showcase our higher education.  We will continue our work in this aspect.



We have not lost sight of the fact that the key component of success is quality assurance.  It enhances the international competitiveness of our institutions and programmes.  We are encouraged by the fact that five of our institutions are ranked among the top 200 universities in the world.  As we continue to grow and develop, we will continue to ensure that quality remains our top priority.  We trust that with so many cities aspiring to be an education hub, one area that will make Hong Kong stand out from them would be the quality of our education programmes.  Only this will ensure Hong Kong remains attractive as an education hub.



Looking ahead, the Government will continue our efforts to internationalise our higher education sector.  For example, we are exploring what more can be done on the promotion side.  We are also now inviting local and overseas institutions to express interest in setting up a campus at a 16-hectare site in the northern part of Hong Kong.  The site will be provided to the successful bidder at nominal land premium.  If your institution is interested in establishing a presence here, I encourage you to seriously consider expressing interest by end-March this year.






Internationalisation is not a zero-sum game.  Governments and institutions around the world will gain mutual benefit if they collaborate in this process.  Collaboration can trigger new sparks, new perspectives and new approaches. 



This conference will, I hope, augur an exciting process of international collaboration.  May I wish you all a fruitful conference.  To those who have travelled a long way to Hong Kong, may I wish you a pleasant stay. Do find time to shop and eat in Hong Kong!  Thank you.


[1] Source: Education at a Glance: OECD Indicators 2007

[2] Source: A. Böhm, Global Student Mobility 2025 (IDP Education Australia, Sydney 2003)

Last revision date: 14 January 2011
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