City University of Hong KongChallenging the limits of education and impact across boundaries

Challenging the limits of education and impact across boundaries

City University of Hong Kong’s Beyond Boundaries series is a timely exploration of universities’ purpose in the new global age 

After two years of closed borders during the Covid-19 pandemic, universities and scholars are rediscovering the value of face-to-face collaboration.

A timely new interview series produced by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) sets out to ask big questions about emerging global challenges, exploring what the new rules of learning might be. The resulting interviews challenge viewers’ perceptions of how a university should look and the impact it can make.

CityU is an international institution that emphasises the integration of research and teaching. Its president, Way Kuo, has led the university since 2008. With a background in research developing the reliability of electronic and energy systems, Kuo is passionate about the role of a university to further innovation and empower students and scholars to develop solutions to everyday challenges.

In the first series of the Beyond Boundaries project, CityU president Way Kuo meets with university leaders in South Africa, India, Germany, Japan and mainland China.

The aim of the project, Kuo explains, is to explore “each other’s strengths and differences” and consider the future direction of education and learning in an ever-changing world.

“We talk so much about globalisation nowadays, but really education institutions must be the voice of local communities too,” Kuo says. “The challenge is finding the right balance in terms of our priorities.”

Kuo took the unusual step of using the series to showcase partner universities as well as his own, as he explains, “there is so much we can learn from each other in this regard”.

A highlight of the series was talking to Mamokgethi Phakeng, vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town (UCT), Kuo says. “South Africa, and UCT itself, has been through a long journey with all kinds of challenges including [apartheid] segregation. But it has gone on to produce three Nobel Prize winners and today the campus is open to students of all backgrounds. 

“They also have a high proportion of senior female faculty, which I found very encouraging,” he says. “So many of us pledge to improve gender diversity, but UCT have actually done it. There’s a lot our community in Hong Kong can learn from that.”

Another topic explored in the series is that of separating politics from education. “It was clear from my conversations that these principles are important in every community, but Humboldt University of Berlin is a perfect example of somewhere that protects and values academic freedom,” says Kuo.

By making the series, CityU has furthered its existing partnerships and established new ones too. In 2018, CityU opened its Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences in collaboration with Cornell University in the US, but it was during discussions for Beyond Boundaries that the university made plans to establish student and faculty exchanges with other leading institutions in the field.

Another lesson learned is that “it’s not how old you are as a university, it’s how good you are. And often success is knowing how to take a risk”, Kuo says. 

The name of the series, Beyond Boundaries, is inspired by the idea of taking a university’s impact beyond the campus and exploring new ways of thinking. It is Kuo’s hope that the series will encourage the academic community to push the boundaries of tradition, “to lead and not just follow”.

“Impact should go beyond the limits of the physical, political and financial boundaries that surround us,” Kuo concludes. 

Find out more about CityU’s Beyond Boundaries series.

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