Tony Chan, the president of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, has been named the next leader of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.
The mathematician, who has been a member of the board of trustees at KAUST since 2011, will succeed interim president Nadhmi Al-Nasr on 1 September.
The private graduate research university was established in 2009 and has become one of the world’s fastest-rising higher education institutions in terms of volume of high-quality research publications.
Professor Chan has led HKUST since 2009, during which time he transitioned the university from a three-year to a four-year curriculum and championed the use of new technology, with the institution becoming the first Asian university to offer massive open online courses on both the Coursera and EdX platforms.
He was assistant director of the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at the US National Science Foundation for three years and, before that, spent 20 years at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he served as professor of mathematics, chair of the department of mathematics and dean of physical sciences.
Khalid Al-Falih, chair of KAUST’s board, said that Professor Chan’s “outstanding record as a leader in higher education and innovation will help us accomplish our ambitious goals in this important time of national transformation”.
“With Dr Chan's leadership, I am confident that KAUST will be well positioned to contribute in a meaningful way to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia achieving its Vision 2030 objectives, which are aimed at addressing global challenges and the betterment of humanity as well as national challenges,” he said.
Speaking after his election, Professor Chan said that leading an institution like KAUST was “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” and he looked forward “to playing a role in not only the next chapter of the university, but in the new era of innovation for Saudi Arabia”.
“My deep history with KAUST and in higher education has allowed me to see firsthand the significant way the university has influenced the global research agenda, and I believe we are only at the beginning of a bright future,” he said.