print page
< Back
Menu > About EDB >
Forms & Circulars
-
Forms
-
Circulars
< Back
Menu > Curriculum Development and Support >
Major Levels of Education
-
Kindergarten Education
-
Primary Education
-
Secondary Education
< Back
Menu > Curriculum Development and Support >
Assessment
-
Basic Competency Assessment (BCA)
< Back
Menu > Students and Parents Related >
Life Planning Education and Career Guidance
-
Life Planning Education
-
Business-School Partnership Programme
< Back
Menu > Students and Parents Related >
Safety Matters
-
Safety of Students
-
School Bus Services
< Back
Menu > Students and Parents Related >
Non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students
-
Education services for non-Chinese speaking (NCS) students
-
What's new
-
Overview
< Back
Menu > Students and Parents Related >
Programs and Services
-
Programs
-
Services
< Back
Menu > Teachers Related >
Qualifications, Training and Development
-
Qualification
-
Training
-
Development
< Back
Menu > School Administration and Management >
Financial Management
-
About Financial Management
-
Information on Subsidy
-
Notes to School Finance
< Back
Menu > School Administration and Management >
School Premises Related Information
-
Allocation of a School
-
Furniture and Equipment List for New Schools
-
School Premises Maintenance
< Back
Menu > Public and Administration Related >
Public Forms and Documents
-
Public Forms
-
Efficiency Office - Guide to Corporate Governance for Subvented Organisations
< Back
Menu > Public and Administration Related >
Tender Notices
-
Tender Notices
-
Works Tender Notice
Main content start
< Back

University Leadership Forum

Dr Choi Yuk-lin, JP, Secretary for Education
Speech by Dr Choi Yuk-lin, JP
Secretary for Education
University Leadership Forum organised by the University Grants Committee (UGC)
30 January 2024 (Tuesday)

 

 

Mr Lui (Chairman of the UGC, Mr Tim Lui), Professor Wong (Chairman of the Research Grants Council, Professor Wong Yuk-shan), Council Chairmen, Heads of Universities, distinguished guests, Council members, and members of the higher education sector,

 

Good afternoon.  It gives me great pleasure to join you at today’s forum to talk about institutional governance in the context where Hong Kong is advancing from stability to prosperity and the Government’s expectations on university leaders.  The forum has been suspended for several years due to the pandemic.  Meanwhile, speedy advances in technology and rapid changes in the global landscape have posed quite a few challenges to Hong Kong’s higher education.  I would like to thank the UGC for organising this event, which offers us an opportunity to pool collective wisdom about institutional governance and the roles of council members, and to forge consensus on promoting higher-quality development of local institutions in response to societal concerns and the changing times.

 

Higher education plays a leading role in the education system, undertaking the mission of cultivating values and nurturing people.  The report to the 20th National Congress mentioned the strategy of “invigorating the country through science and education and developing a strong workforce for the modernisation drive”.  In this era of rapid technological advancement, global competition for talent is intense.  Establishing first-class universities and nurturing first-rate talent are major forces shaping the future.  Hong Kong has now entered the stage of advancing from stability to prosperity.  The nurturing of talent has a bearing on the future of Hong Kong and the robustness of “One Country, Two Systems”.  The Chief Executive announced in the 2023 Policy Address that we would build Hong Kong into an international hub for higher education and a cradle of future talent in order to create stronger impetus for Hong Kong’s development and contribute to the development of our country.  The talent pool and the development of higher education form an important basis for Hong Kong’s development in, for example, innovation and technology.  In this regard, to achieve good institutional governance, the effective leadership of university councils is key.

 

The Government places great importance on investing in education.  Internationally renowned for the quality of its higher education, Hong Kong currently stands as the only city with five universities ranked in the world’s top 100.  The remarkable achievements in higher education can be attributed to multiple factors, one of them being the tremendous government financial support given to local universities, which garnered much admiration from our higher education counterparts overseas during my recent exchange visits.  Moreover, our stable development environment has attracted a wealth of outstanding talent to study and conduct research in Hong Kong.  Academic freedom and a high degree of autonomy in institutional governance, guaranteed under the Basic Law, further contribute to this success.  And there are expert governance, freedom and openness, all being distinctive advantages of our higher education sector.

 

“It is more difficult to sustain than to start.”  Every single accomplishment of Hong Kong’s higher education is the cumulative result of persistent efforts and is by no means easy to achieve.  Good governance is the key to a solid foundation for sustaining the healthy and thriving development of tertiary institutions and building Hong Kong into an international education hub.  With good governance, our tertiary institutions can capitalise on their institutional autonomy and academic freedom.  With good governance, our universities can fulfil their visions and missions.  With good governance, our tertiary institutions can optimise resources, attract top-notch talent, and develop first-class academic disciplines.  Good governance is fundamentally about the role of university councils.

 

As the supreme governing bodies of institutions, university councils are responsible for reviewing the directions, strategies and major decisions pertaining to university development, playing a pivotal role in institutional growth.  They comprise internal and external members from diverse backgrounds and professions, representing different stakeholders and being accountable to the community for monitoring, promoting and supporting the development of universities.  Furthermore, they play a bridging role between universities and different stakeholders, conveying society’s expectations and requirements to university management and staff, and ensuring that universities operate effectively in line with their missions.

 

Improper discharge of duties by council members not only impairs the development of institutions but also erodes public confidence in university governance, thereby undermining the foundation of universities.  Against a backdrop of intense global competition, to progress slowly is to fall behind; even the slightest division and internal rift could cause irreparable damage to our universities.  Over the past few years, institutional governance has withstood numerous challenges.  It has been proven in practice that as long as we stay united and committed to fulfilling our respective responsibilities, we will be able to find common ground and reconcile differences.  By doing so, we can enhance the quality of our universities and position them at the forefront of the global trends, thereby making a greater contribution to building a prosperous Hong Kong and achieving the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

 

The Government will continue to support the development of institutions and the enhancement of institutional governance to leverage the advantages of Hong Kong’s higher education.  I call on every council member to embrace the spirit of accountability and work collaboratively in the following three aspects to enhance institutional governance and drive institutional development.

1. Improving the governance system

 

Article 137 of the Basic Law states that “educational institutions of all kinds may retain their autonomy and enjoy academic freedom”.  Universities enjoy autonomy in academic and management matters, including curriculum design, academic standards, admission criteria, degree conferral, staff appointments as well as internal resource allocation.  A high degree of institutional autonomy is built on a high level of trust of the community in university governance.  To win the trust of the public and stakeholders both within and outside institutions, it is essential for every council member to demonstrate unwavering dedication and full accountability, and for institutions to practise good governance.

 

Great diversity is a prominent feature of Hong Kong’s higher education, as evident in the presence of a diverse talent pool, cultural exchanges and interactions, and more importantly, the establishment of institutional governance systems.  Public universities in Hong Kong have formulated their own governing regulations with regard to their respective backgrounds and goals.  This ensures that the operation of the universities is in line with their backgrounds, goals, visions and missions, catering to the diverse learning needs of students and effectively meeting the expectations of society.

 

According to the Sutherland Report of the UGC, the composition and structure of university councils should be reviewed based on the principle of “fitness for purpose”.  In the subsequent UGC’s report entitled “Governance in UGC-funded Higher Education Institutions in Hong Kong”, institutions are encouraged to refer to the proposed principle, draw from international and local good practices, and conduct timely reviews of their governance in order to stay up-to-date.  In recent years, quite a number of institutions have taken steps, in light of actual circumstances, to continuously enhance their governance by, inter alia, initiating amendments to outdated provisions, streamlining council structure and recruiting more community personalities.  This embodiment of accountability and autonomy in pursuit of excellence has earned public and social recognition.

 

Substantial efforts have also been made by the Government to support the enhancement of institutional governance.  One such initiative was the introduction of the University Accountability Agreements (UAAs) in 2019, which dovetail with universities’ triennial planning and are updated as needed to ensure that resource allocation and talent development in universities align with the needs of social development.  Institutional governance is in fact an ever-evolving challenge.  As the world undergoes profound changes unprecedented in a century, universities have to find their footing in the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation for institutional development by keeping in mind the country’s priorities as well as demonstrating firm commitment and adeptness at execution.  Improving governance systems is part and parcel of sustainable institutional development.  It is the responsibility of university councils to continuously review, consolidate, enhance, and even reform their institutional governance frameworks to ensure effective governance.

 

I would like to express my gratitude to every one of you for your efforts and contributions in enhancing institutional governance.  Furthermore, I would like to call on all council members to fulfil their role as institution leaders, fully support the work of university councils and foster the healthy development of institutions.


2. Optimising governance capabilities

 

University councils are statutory governing entities with leadership roles and responsibilities.  As the supreme governing and executive bodies of institutions, they have the authority to make decisions on matters such as the overall direction, strategies, personnel appointments and financial management of the institutions, and their governance capabilities directly impact the development of universities.  The governance of an institution rides on the concerted efforts of its leaders and team members.  To achieve good governance, the council chairman and members should demonstrate solidarity in fulfilling their leadership roles by assuming primary responsibilities and discharging duties earnestly and impartially.  They should also enhance communication between the university council and the management team to foster mutual understanding and respect, thereby facilitating collaborative work while maintaining clear delineation of responsibilities. 

 

Speaking about good governance in our city, Mr Xia Baolong, Director of the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the Central Government pointed out that “The patriotic community of Hong Kong should stand united by listening to different perspectives without bias, manifesting competence to collaborate, and resolving issues through enhanced communication, exchange of ideas, understanding, support and leniency to people, words and deeds.”  In a complex and ever-changing international environment, leadership teams should bear in mind that “Harmony brings good fortune, while discord leads to misfortune.”  As the saying goes, “Success comes to those who share in one purpose”.  Applied in the context of institutional governance, it means that council members should seek common ground and accommodate differences with open-mindedness and inclusivity in order to make collaborative contributions to institutional development.

 

Council members are distinguished individuals in their respective fields.  Dedicated and committed to serving the community, they assume public offices to contribute their expertise and professional knowledge to driving institutional development.  I have seen for myself that, in addition to participating actively in council meetings, many council members have made conscientious efforts outside of the meetings to delve into the history, goals and directions of the institutions’ development as well as the difficulties and challenges encountered.  Furthermore, they collaborate with university leadership teams and various stakeholders to proactively care for and support university development, and optimise the governance capabilities of university councils with their professional knowledge.


3. Enhancing governance efficacy

 

The governance efficacy of institutions is reflected in the achievement of their education aims and the effective use of resources.  The Chief Executive has expressed the vision of building Hong Kong into an international hub for post-secondary education.  By motivating universities to expand their capacity and enhance their quality, we can attract students from around the world to pursue their studies in Hong Kong, creating a more diverse higher education landscape.  With strengthened governance efficacy of institutions, we will in turn create a stronger impetus for Hong Kong’s development.

 

Emphasising on being “result-oriented”, the current-term government has set various indicators, including KPIs (key performance indicators), for monitoring the progress and effectiveness of policy implementation.  Based on these indicators, regular reviews are conducted and timely improvements can be made.  The two reports issued by the UGC make it clear at the outset that the UGC-funded universities receive a huge amount of public funding every year with recurrent funding amounting to $63.2 billion in the current triennium.  It is thus imperative for the universities to put in place an effective system of accountability to ensure the proper use of public funds.  On the enhancement of governance efficacy, financial management is undoubtedly important, but what holds greater significance is how universities utilise their limited resources to achieve positive outcomes in teaching, research and fulfilling social responsibilities in response to societal expectations.

 

In this connection, the UGC stipulates in the UAAs the principles to be observed and the responsibilities to be borne by universities regarding the proper use of funds.  Over 20 performance measures, along with over 10 institution-specific performance indicators, are clearly set out for the comprehensive and objective assessment of university performance, the results of which inform funding allocation.  This approach not only embodies the spirit of institutional accountability but also enhances the effectiveness of governance.

 

Most importantly, university councils must plan and take forward institutional development from a macro perspective.  While competing for progress, they should actively promote inter-institution collaboration and transdisciplinary interactions, thereby achieving synergy to confront the global competition for talent and technological advantage as well as the challenge of advancing human civilisation and moral values.  The enhancement of institutional governance efficacy will ultimately lead to the delivery of desired outcomes.

 

Conclusion

 

Education is the cornerstone of a nation’s development.  At this critical juncture of our country’s rapid development and Hong Kong’s advancement from stability to prosperity, tertiary institutions assume a profound mission.  The solidarity among university council members is an indispensable driving force for institutions to improve their governance systems, optimise their governance capabilities and enhance their governance efficacy.  Today’s forum marks only the beginning.  Good institutional governance requires sustained efforts and continuous improvement.  I would like to take this opportunity to thank the UGC for organising this forum, all guest speakers for sharing your insights, and every council member present for your selfless dedication.  Lastly, I wish this event a resounding success.  Thank you.