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16 November 2012

2012 Congregation
President's Speech

Dear guests, graduates, parents, friends and colleagues,

Almost 40 years ago, I was a young man from Hong Kong, sitting in the graduation exercises at an American university, just like you down there, waiting to receive my Bachelor of Science degree.

The world knew little about Hong Kong and Hong Kong had little impact on the world. It was a world where the West was where young men and women from the East went to pursue knowledge, where graduates went to pursue opportunities. Hardly any went in the West to East direction.

Oh how the world and Hong Kong have changed in the past 40 years. The rise of Asia and China, the excellence in academics achieved by Asian institutions of higher education - including those in Hong Kong like HKUST, make traffic two-way in pursuing education and opportunities. Hong Kong, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, have benefited enormously from this open-minded internationalization. Today, Hong Kong is a world-class city, and today, HKUST is a world-class university!

I just returned two weeks ago from a trip to three countries of Europe, Denmark, Sweden and Germany, where university presidents envy our positioning as an international university with wide ranging connections in Mainland China, that we are in a thriving international city that can take advantage of a historically unique One Country, Two Systems of governance, situated in a dynamic region of the world's economy, combining the best from the East and the West. They are amazed at our rapid rise in global recognition in a short 20 years, whereas their universities were founded centuries ago. They envy our use of English as a language of instruction, enabling our graduates to enter the global workforce and educational opportunities with ease, and also enabling us to attract the best students from all corners of the world, something that most Continental European universities can only dream about. University faculty there envy our global research recognition combined with Mainland Chinese collaborations and resources. Soon-to-graduate PhD students there are eager to come join our faculty, and where undergraduate students competed fiercely to exchange to HKUST.

I also met our local HKUST graduates who are now thriving in Europe, and who went to Europe not because they have friends or relatives there but seek challenges and opportunities in a global arena. Some first went as exchange students, like what they experienced and went back for full-time graduate studies. Some stayed and are working there. They are excellent ambassadors for HKUST, indeed for Hong Kong.

I also met German, Danish and Swedish students who either graduated from HKUST or were exchange students here. They spoke fondly of their experience at HKUST and are recommending others to follow their footsteps.

All of the students I met, be they from Hong Kong or Europe, are taking advantage of a truly globalized world. They exemplified what I happened to read in an article in the New York Times on my trip - that Asian universities are doing better and better in making their graduates globally employable. In fact, the article led off with an example of a German student who spent three years at HKUST and is now working for an international company in Germany. The article says, "According to a recent study on graduate employability, Mr Kramer's HKUST degree puts him ahead of business graduates from many well-known Western universities". This deserves to be better known in Hong Kong.

In this context, it is surprising to find that there are some in Hong Kong who question an open mind towards the rest of the globe, including Mainland China. In my view, it is this open mind that contributes to Hong Kong's formidable global positioning today. And it is this open mind that makes HKUST the world-acclaimed university it is today.

Frankly, I don't remember what was exactly on my mind 40 years ago when I sat waiting for my university graduation. But I can tell you that the picture of Hong Kong today and HKUST today, how far both have come and where they are heading, was something too fantastic to even dream about 40 years ago.

I hope that those of you who are graduating today will tell people you meet, including younger generations following you, how Hong Kong has survived and developed and thrived as an international city being part of China. I hope that you go forth into the world armed with global knowledge and global mindset, and be able to apply global insight to solve global problems and grasp global opportunities.

At HKUST, the global outlook is not just a slogan. It should be in the DNA of every student in this university. The world is your oyster, but only if you take it with both hands.

To all of you graduates I say: "Good luck as you solve these problems and grasp these opportunities!! And make HKUST proud!"

Thank you!!


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