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14 November 2015

HKUST 25th Anniversary Celebration in London
President's Speech

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for coming to the 25th anniversary Global Alumni Event of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology—or HKUST as we call it. I am very happy to see so many familiar faces here, with guests and many friends from universities and other institutions from the UK and the continent. I would also like to extend a warm welcome our special guest tonight, Mr Xiaoming Liu, Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the United Kingdom. Thank you, Mr Ambassador, for taking time from your very busy schedule to come celebrate with us. Let us give a warm welcome to Ambassador Liu and to all the distinguished guests present! But of course, we are here to celebrate our birthday with our alumni and our students, and we want to thank them for coming today for both the seminar and the dinner.

Twenty-Five years ago, before the Handover of Hong Kong from UK to China, Hong Kong was known as the Pearl of the Orient and a budding financial centre and a gateway to trade in China. But Hong Kong was not known as a global hub of higher education, and it had no research focused universities. The founders of HKUST saw the opportunity and need for Hong Kong to develop its own research-oriented university—one that can produce world class researches and ideas and students, in order to assist in the economic and social development of Hong Kong. As a result of the collective wisdom and will of the founders, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology was born in 1991.

Today’s event in London is the first of a series of four HKUST 25th Anniversary Global Alumni Events, with three more being held next year in San Francisco, Beijing, and Singapore, showing how the HKUST influence has now spread around the world. Our emphasis, since Day 1, is to bring an international outlook to the University. We recruited our faculty from the best talent around the globe, and we made international admission a priority. Today, 28% of our 13,500 student populations are from outside of Hong Kong and almost 50% of our undergraduate students have gone on an exchange program with our partner institutions for at least 1 semester—in our midst tonight are many students who are currently spending a semester at UK universities. Our exchange program brings in an equal number of international exchange students—several of these international students who previously spent a semester at HKUST are here today. Finally, the number of alumni from Europe now stands at several hundred, with a majority of them in the U.K.

Our determination to achieve excellence has been recognized by our peers around the globe: HKUST has attained a score of 70%, the highest proportion of internationally distinguished research work among the eight Government-funded Institutions in Hong Kong in the recent HK Research Assessment Exercise, and we are ranked in the top tier by QS and Times Higher Education rankings on a consistent basis. Our growing number of international partnerships with other institutions and enterprises around the globe, which now stand at 250 strong, is a testament to our place among global academia. And we have nine strategic partners in three continents. Many of our former professors and management have gone on to assume leading positions of other Hong Kong and China universities as well as the government. Many of our alumni have achieved success in academia, business, and government worldwide. We rank very high year after year in global employability surveys. I would like to highlight one undergraduate program in particular, our World Bachelor in Business program which sees students spending their first year in USC in Los Angeles, the second year at HKUST, and the third year at Bocconi in Milan before going back to one of the three institutions for their fourth year. They then graduate with three Bachelors Degrees! This evening, we have several WBB students flying in from Milan to join us!

An important driving force for HKUST is our commitment to innovation. Indeed, our 25th anniversary slogan is “Innovating Today, Imaging Tomorrow”. HKUST has been in relentless pursuit of innovation and excellence in higher education in Hong Kong. In 1997, the world famous Kellogg School of Management of the Northwestern University linked up with our Business Scholl in the EMBA, creating one of the most prestigious programs in the world. In 2008—ranked No.1 in the world by the Financial Times 5 times in the past 7 years. A few years ago, HKUST formed its Institute of Advanced Study, a platform for catalytic interaction among the world's foremost scientists and scholars to pursue enduring knowledge. The Institute recruits top-notch scholars as IAS Professors to further elevate the academic standing of HKUST and Hong Kong, invites intellectual leaders in their respective areas to visit and interact with the local academic community, and engages outstanding HKUST faculty to lead frontier research projects. Sir John Pendry, who spoke at our alumni seminar earlier this afternoon, is one of our visiting professors at the IAS, and we are proud to confer the Doctor of Science honoris causa to him in a week’s time at our commencement.

These are all reasons for us to celebrate our 25th anniversary, for together, we have achieved so much in such a short period of time. But we are by no means satisfied. To continue our mission to advance learning and knowledge, going forward, we have drawn up five strategic research areas, namely, (1) big data and artificial intelligence, (2) robotics and automation, (3) entrepreneurship and design, (4) environment and sustainability, and (5) public policy, where we will focus our effort to promote innovation, conduct world class research, and generate high impact ideas. You will note that entrepreneurship is one of our strategic focus going forward, and it is fitting for me to mention at this time that, thus far, our most successful entrepreneur--who graduated from HKUST less than ten years ago--is the founder of DJI, the world’s dominant consumer drone maker. We are grateful to DJI for helping to sponsor all of our Global Alumni Events!

HKUST’s success is the result of concerted efforts by our staff, our students, and our alumni. With clear objectives, a Can-Do attitude, hard work, and a global outlook, and your continued support, I believe HKUST can achieve even higher heights. Here’s to the next 25 years. Cheers!


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