Facing three challenges

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Dear Colleagues,

The start of a new semester warrants some forward planning. Let me briefly lay out for you what I perceive to be the major issues facing the University in the next few months. All these issues require priority attention from my senior colleagues and me, with your understanding and support.

First, the College issue. This is undoubtedly the most critical issue the University is facing. A satisfactory solution is primordial to the future development of CityU. Since June, the Council's Working Group has been working very hard to discover the facts about our associate degrees and coming up with a realistic and viable solution acceptable to all concerned. Over the summer, the University administration has made every resource available to the Group to facilitate its work. The Group has covered a lot of ground and its progress has already been communicated to staff in two monthly reports (http://www.cityu.edu.hk/cityutoday/
. I believe that, under the leadership of Mr S M Chung, our Treasurer, the Group will soon be able to make public its initial suggestions. I pledge my support to its final recommendations and to executing the Council's decisions on them. Once the decisions are made, I believe it is most important for the University community to focus again on its vision and mission in a stable and harmonious atmosphere.

Second, the issue of role differentiation. In early September, the University Grants Committee (UGC) set up three important sub-committees, as part of follow-up efforts on its review of higher education in Hong Kong earlier last year. These three groups, all chaired by the UGC's external members and distinguished academic leaders from abroad, will look at, respectively, role differentiation, performance-based funding and academic development proposal of the eight local tertiary institutions. Of the three groups, the first one--on role differentiation--is perhaps the most crucial to CityU's future. CityU's current role was defined and written up by the UGC in 1994. This time around, the subcommittee--headed by Sir Colin Lucas, OxfordUniversity's Vice-Chancellor--will visit us on 17 October to acquaint itself with the University. I believe this is a critical opportunity for us not only to show Sir Lucas and his members what we have achieved so far, but what we aspire to be in the future. The outcome of this visit will have significant bearing on our funding under the UGC's proposed role-specific formula for higher education. It is, thus, imperative for us to rally together and seize this opportunity to present a strong case for our existing strengths, our remarkable achievements, and above all, our aspirations for making a greater contribution to Hong Kong, China and the region through excellence in teaching and research.

Lastly, the budget outlook. Much has been made public by now. The Government, through the UGC, has recently announced a 10% funding cut for 2004-05, a challenge for which CityU had already made proactive preparations in the current financial year. Yet, looking further afield in 2005-06 and onward, the picture is still far from certain. The new Financial Secretary, The Hon Henry Tang, has indicated that the Government, while largely committed to eradicating the budget deficits, is not bound in any way by the deadline imposed by his predecessor. How this intention will be translated into dollars and cents remains largely unclear. While we have to wait and see, the University will have to stay vigilant. In fact, a working group of the Management Board is actively looking into a range of possible cost-saving measures and efficiency drives across the board. I am committed to bringing to you for consultation, before this semester ends, an integrated and comprehensive package on how the University can meet its budgetary challenges.

I hope this short report will help you understand the major challenges and critical issues in front of us. I am relying on your continued support and constructive comments in the months ahead.

Yours faithfully,





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