Sir Gordon speaks his mind

Peter Ho

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Today, in the first ever open forum for staff by a serving Council Chairman, Sir Gordon Wu laid out his plans for the University the coming years: to situate the new Community College on campus, to map out a campus development plan to meet future growth of student numbers, and to improve management and staff interaction and co-operation.

Speaking with verve, and often punctuating his remarks with wit and frankness, Sir Gordon described his vision for the University before some 300 staff, in a forum organized by the Staff Association at lunchtime, 27 April.

The first commitment Sir Gordon made concerns the site of the Community College. In addition to bidding for a new site in Tsang Kwan O, he would like to see the College located on the hillside next to Nam Shan Yuen. “I am committed to having the community college on campus,” he said. In his eyes, the College should be a niche market for the University. There should be an arrangement to absorb as many good graduates from CityU's Associate Degree programmes into undergraduate programmes. He told the staff that he had personal guarantee from Mr Arthur Li, Secretary for Education and Manpower, that more resources would be forthcoming from the Government for the College project.

On the coming Creative Media Centre project to house the School of Creative Media and other related departments, he expressed a wish for a more functional and less expensive building.

Also in his plans, for which approval by the District Land Office may be required, is an extension building, on a site near the open car park next to the Sports Complex, to accommodate future growth in student numbers with the four-year curriculum.

On the issue of deep collaboration and a possible merger with PolyU, he said the Government has no “hard and fast rule.” Both sides are exploring all sorts of collaboration possibilities and, as in courtship, it may take some time to understand each other. The process could take up to 10 years. The logic of a merge is “to pool resources” in order that both institutions might rise several notches in terms of academic strength and reputation. He believes there should not be a big reduction or layoff in administrative staff, even if the two institutions become one, because, by then, natural attrition would have decreased staff numbers. 

Sir Gordon answered numerous questions from the floor. He urged the University's Management to perform “a balancing act” between teaching and research under the new role statement. “Training students for the workplace and for life,” is what undergraduate education is about, according to Sir Gordon, and he is happy to see the “value-addedness” CityU has in the curriculum. Research is exploration and application of knowledge. “A university will have no life if it has no research,” he said. CityU should focus on applied research, with outcomes that cater to the needs of the community. “We can’t afford to be an egghead university,” he remarked.

Further, Sir Gordon believes a university needs eminent scholars and that all chair professors, as at Princeton, his alma mater, should teach undergraduate classes. He was pleased to learn from some chair professors at the forum that this is the case at CityU. Similar pertinent questions were posed at a staff forum earlier in the morning when Professor David Tong, Deputy President, held a “town hall” meeting with faculty academic staff.

In response to staff requests, Sir Gordon promised to look into matters on increasing staff representation on the College Board, and ways to improve staff-management collaboration and communication. He also committed to talking to Management about ensuring that no existing staff will be forced to leave or re-employed under the new salary scales.


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