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14 November 2016    

HKUST 25th Anniversary Celebration in London
President's Speech
 

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Thank you for coming to the 25th anniversary Global Alumni Celebration of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology—or HKUST as we call it. Happy Chinese New Year of Monkey! I am very happy to see so many familiar faces here, with guests and many friends from universities and other institutions from the US. I would especially like to extend a warm welcome to our special guest here tonight, Mr Jun Yang, Counsellor of Education Office, Consulate General of the People's Republic of China. I would also like to welcome Mr. Lawrence Tang, Head of Investment Promotion from Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in San Francisco.

We are here to celebrate our birthday with our students, alumni from all disciplines, and close partners, and we want to thank all of them for coming today for both the seminar and the dinner. Let me first give you all some ideas of how far HKUST has come in the past 25 years.

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 San Francisco is the second of four HKUST 25th Anniversary Global Alumni Events, we had our first one in London in Nov 2015, and the next two are coming up in 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 universities in the United States for exchange. 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, I am very happy to see so many alumni and former faculty of ours here tonight.

Our determination to achieve excellence has been recognized by our peers around the globe: Last year, HKUST 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 and business. Many of our alumni have achieved success in academia, business, and government worldwide. We rank extremely 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 coming from USC to join us!! Last year, we reached an agreement with Caltech, my alma mater, on a Visiting Associates Program, where our young faculty will have the opportunity to work with the faculty of Caltech and nurture a long lasting professional relationship between the two schools. In fact, both of the inaugural Associates are with us tonight!

This dinner is a university-wide function, but I am incredibly proud of our School of Engineering. I hope those of you who were at the Seminar this afternoon were impressed with the accomplishments and vision of our Engineering School. Many of the school’s graduates are here tonight, and I am very happy to see them now making a name of their own in Silicon Valley — we have senior engineers in world’s renowned companies like Apple, Facebook, Google and etc, we also have post-graduate students in leading institutions in the Bay Area, and some are running their own startups right here in San Francisco!

Engineering is in the DNA of our university. In the latest rankings issued by THE, HKUST ranks no. 16 in the world in Engineering and Technology, and in QS ranking by subjects, such as Chemical Engineering, Civil and Structural Engineering, Computer Science and Information Systems, and Electrical Electronic engineering are all ranked in the top 30 in the world. These are all remarkable achievements by a university so young, but we are by no means satisfied. Our School of Engineering is now in discussion with UC Berkeley on a Research alliance initiative on Integrated Robotics and Machine Intelligence, a meeting was held just yesterday. These are just some examples to show that we are always looking for strategic partnerships with international partners. We are always looking to get better.

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 beyond our 25th Anniversary, 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, educate the next generation in some critical areas, 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, one of our most successful entrepreneurs — who graduated from HKUST less than 10 years ago — is Mr Frank Wang, a graduate of our School of Engineering and the founder of DJI, the world’s dominant consumer drone maker. As some of you may have already noticed, DJI is the sponsor for tonight’s event. We are grateful to DJI for helping to sponsor all of our Global Alumni Events!

In summary, 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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