On 7 May 2016, President and Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson, accompanied by his full Senior Management Team (SMT), met Convocation members in an open forum organised by the Standing Committee and the two major alumni bodies, namely the Hong Kong University Alumni Association (HKUAA) and the Hong Kong University Graduates Association (HKUGA). I said in my introduction that we made history once again, for it was the first time Convocation members and the full SMT met in such a fashion, or for that matter, in any fashion. We had organized the Forum to facilitate further exchange of views between Convocation members and the University on the strategic plan for the next decade. Professor Mathieson had already taken the plan, entitled Vision 2016 -2025, to the Council and the Court, which had both endorsed it. He has also met student representatives and would continue to meet other stakeholders. The plan seeks to position HKU as “Asia’s Global University” in the next decade, and to create impact through three pillars, namely, teaching and learning, research and knowledge exchange.

The University has published the plan as a draft, primarily because, as Professor Mathieson explains it, it is meant to be a framework for discussion with and between stakeholders so that specific implementation plans could be developed to achieve the goals. Convocation members and alumni are important stakeholders in this context, which is why the University attaches great importance to last week’s Forum. The fact that the SMT turned up in full force is indicative of their seriousness and indeed speaks volumes.

Those who could not be present at the Forum would be interested to learn that the event was very well received. After the keynote speech by Professor Mathieson, members were formed into four discussion groups, each with two to three SMT members responding to questions and providing further input on specific issues. The four groups then reported back in a concluding plenary session with summaries on what were discussed, which was followed by a question and answer session between the SMT and the floor. Issues discussed were wide ranging and discussions were useful and constructive.

When I was in New York City and Chicago last month, I had very useful discussions with alumni representatives in both cities. Invariably, I brought to their attention the document on “Asia’s Global University” and I had the paper circulated to all overseas alumni chapters.  Our alumni overseas are very positive about the University in general and have all agreed to study the vision plan for the next decade and to offer the University whatever help they can. In this connection, Professor Mathieson strongly believes that our alumni overseas are great ambassadors of the University; and has tried to engage them as often as he can. On the other hand, overseas alumni would look forward to developing stronger ties with the University and between themselves. With more emphases on globalisation and internationalisation, we can expect to have more alumni overseas; and it would be timely to consider building a stronger global network that would benefit both students and alumni around the world.

Before signing off, I would like to thank the HKUAA and the HKUGA for being co-organisers of the Forum. Of course, I must thank all the colleagues on the Standing Committee and the staff of the Development and Alumni Office for their hard work. Let me also stress that the Forum is just the beginning of a continuing process of engagement between the University and Convocation members. As Professor Mathieson has time and again underlined, he and the Senior Management Team are committed to the plan and to making HKU Asia’s Global University. They are always there to listen and to engage anyone who is prepared to tell them how HKU can do better.

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