Be jubilant and maintain course

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Dear Colleagues and Students,

The annual CityU Banquet, hosted by the CityU Students' Union, will be held on the night of 31 October, soon to be followed by the 18th Congregation, 11 to14 November. At this time of jubilation, the University has to make some important decisions.

First, the Council Working Group on Associate Degree (AD) Programmes, working so diligently for months under the able leadership of Mr S M Chung in the spirit of being forward-looking, understanding and responsible, has released a draft report. It is being offered for campus-wide consultation. The Management Board and the Senate, both of which I chaired, held meetings on 20 and 21 October respectively to endorse, in principle, the report's recommendations. The proposals have put forward favourable conditions for the University to continue to offer AD programmes on a self-financing basis.

Mr Norman Leung , Council Chairman, and I were invited to the LegCo Education Panel meeting on 20 October. As I told the press afterward, I feel positive and optimistic about the report and its recommendations. I believe that, through our common effort, City University will be able to overcome the biggest challenge it faces since its inception.

As President, I assure you that I will, to the best of my abilities, implement the resolutions made by the Council after the consultation period.

Second, as other tertiary institutions in Hong Kong, CityU inevitably will face budget constraints in the coming years. As the government gradually withdraws its funding from CityU's AD programmes, our fiscal challenge will likely be more severe than that of our peer institutions.

In the past six months, the Management Board has considered how the University can respond to various scenarios. Our basic premise is that under a set of prudent financial management principles and on the basis of fairness and equity, we shall seek to minimize, as far as possible, the likely impact on our staff and to maintain the academic vitality CityU has achieved over the past few years.

A nine-person Core Group on tackling budget constraints, led by Professors David Tong , Y S Wong and Roderick Wong , submitted a report to the Management Board on 20 October. The Board accepted its initial proposals and suggested that university-wide staff consultations be carried out. Even though the proposals at present only exist as a framework, I feel that our colleagues should be given opportunities to familiarize themselves with the proposals and to express their views. I encourage active participation in the future consultations.

Third, the University Grants Committee has set up a number of working groups to review its funding mechanism for the eight public institutions. A group on role differentiation, led by Sir Colin Lucas , OxfordUniversity's Vice-chancellor, visited CityU on 17 October to get acquainted itself with the university developments. Another group on academic development, led by Sir Brian Fender , will be on campus in early November. I believe these visits and reviews will have a major bearing on CityU's future academic positioning, development, and funding.

Here, I would like you to know that in the past seven or eight years CityU has passed every review of such nature with flying colours. We received a lot of positive comments and encouragements from the visiting panels. Based on this experience, I anticipate a similar outcome.

In less than 10 years, CityU has accomplished what other universities took 20 to 30 years to do with their academic system and campus ambiance. In the past six or seven years, we had outstanding achievements in many areas; we also had rather generous funding. With careful financial planning, we spent a major portion of our funding on improving the strength of our academic staff, and the learning environment, particularly in enhancing the infrastructure and the application of information technology on campus.

The development of a university is no easy task at any time. It will certainly be more difficult at times of economic downturn and budgetary constraints. Yet what ultimately decides if a university is successful is its human resources—the university's staff and students. Let's remind ourselves of our impressive achievements and work together closely. I am confident that we shall overcome whatever hurdles ahead and achieve our goals eventually.

I suggest that you browse the CityU websites to see our impressive line-up of teaching staff and their achievements. I also hope that you go and visit the student residences, walk around the newly refurbished Fifth floor of the AcademicBuilding and the re-designed Library. Or at least, spend some time at the University Concourse on the Fourth floor to see for yourself how our students are enjoying the new learning environment. This is our pride and where our future lies.

I hope at the upcoming CityU Banquet and Congregation our sense of pride as CityU staff and students will shine through and live up to the indomitable CityU spirit of these few years.

H K Chang
President and University Professor



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