Building a shining brand name

Regina Lau, Shirley Lam and Grace Ho

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University President Professor H K Chang outlined the big picture and CityU's future direction at the University Development Forum, 25 May, in the Wei Hing Theatre packed with some 300 staff members and students. While a projected shortfall in budgetary position in 2008-09 exists, according to Professor Chang the University shows encouraging potential to make ends meet through its self-financing programmes.


Professor Chang also recapped achievements in teaching and research that have put the University on firm footing in the past few years. One of the most important tasks ahead is to elevate CityU’s brand name. “The brand name is there,” he asserted. “What we need to do is to elevate it, to make it shine.” He urged everyone to be proud of what he or she has achieved, and not to be easily discouraged by disturbing incidents that distort public’s perception of CityU. 


Professor David Tong, Deputy President; Professor Edmond Ko, Vice-President (Undergraduate Education); Professor Y S Wong, Vice-President (Administration); and Dr Jerry Yu, Chief Information Officer, joined the President at the question and answer session on the stage followed the presentation.


Changing landscape

The changing landscape tertiary institutions face has been caused by Hong Kong's economic uncertainty, changes in the funding paradigm, the University Grants Committee (UGC) putting increased emphasis on role-related performance, new role statements for local universities, and deep collaboration  encouraged by the UGC among the eight funded institutions.  By and large, CityU must do well in teaching and research, and successfully interact with industry and commerce in order to compete for funding. UGC funding in 2005-08 to be shared between teaching and research, will be in the proportion of 65% and 25% respectively; the remaining 10% will be reserved for a Performance and Role-related Funding Scheme.


Professor Chang conceded that perhaps CityU has been made vulnerable due to the withdrawal of UGC funding from three quarters of our Associate Degree (AD) programmes and all of our taught postgraduate programmes in the year 2008.  The University projected that there might be a budgetary shortfall, if the workforce and the level of salary and benefits levels remain as in 2003-04.  


One encouraging sign is that the University has shown robust income generating capacity, earning a total HK$124 million in 2003-04, through self-financing efforts by the faculties and schools. “If we triple our results, we will be able to meet our shortfall, while maintaining education quality and a stable workforce,” the President said. In light of the emphasis on self-financing activities to cushion UGC’s funding cuts, the President urged staff members to change their culture and mindset to meet the challenges of the changing landscape.


On the issue of deep collaboration, a bottom-up process at faculty and school level has started between CityU and PolyU, with the formation of four working groups on engineering, taught postgraduate education, capital and facilities, and academic secretariat. Professor Chang said that collaboration should be regarded as an opportunity to add strength to strength.


The President also took the opportunity to announce the newly endorsed Community College of CityU (CCCU),  passed by the Senate on 25 May, to take charge of the College’s academic planning. 


Mileage achieved

The President reiterated that thanks to the University community’s concerted efforts, CityU has achieved great feats in securing UGC funding, enhancing efficiency, cost saving, and improving campus ambiance. CityU has also done well in claiming in full the UGC’s floor amount for the Matching Grant Scheme, with active participation from staff members and generous support from philanthropies.


In regard to quality education, CityU received high praise in Teaching and Learning Quality Process Review (TLQPR), and were commended for its leadership role in quality assurance and evidence-based decision-making for learner-centre education. The 2002 Education and Manpower Bureau's employer survey found that CityU graduates got top marks in information technology literacy, work attitude, analytical/problem-solving abilities, and in English and Chinese language proficiency. Moreover, the UGC acknowledged the University's success in the area of creative media and allocated to CityU 210 Associate Degree second-year top-up places--the second largest number among the eight funded institutions. When it comes to research, the University has assembled excellent staff and demonstrated strength in professional and specialized areas. CityU ranked top in research output per UGC funded dollar and excelled in Engineering, Physical Sciences, Humanities, Social Sciences and Business Studies in 2001-02.


The road ahead

Professor Chang stressed that the University should work hard at elevating CityU’s brand name, generating income through self-financing activities, and establishing CityU’s role of education on the mainland. Of these objectives, CityU’s brand name should take priority. “With our brand name, we can enjoy quality student intake, quality staff, and increased private and public support, leading to quality programmes and outstanding graduates,” Professor Chang added. “These factors will, in return, further enhance our brand name.”


Staff voices 

At the Q & A session, staff and students voiced concerns about issues of deep collaboration, self-financing programmes, the students' sense of belonging, staff morale, and communication. In response to staff's question about the impact of a potential merger on CityU's development, the President reiterated that up to now, the four working groups on collaboration are only talking about collaboration and not merger. “We should view deep collaboration as an additional opportunity rather than a threat,” added Professor David Tong. Staff should understand that unless it will strengthen CityU’s educational value and research activities, the University does not need to enter into any collaboration.


Embracing change

Senior Management shared staff concern that CityU's self-financing programmes will face fierce competition from overseas institutions--another reason why CityU needs to establish its brand name. In relation to the self-financing programmes, more synergy among faculties to capitalize on the expertise at CityU and the need for clear guidelines and policies was suggested.


Concern was also voiced about the facilities for the increasing student population predicted by some staff as going up to 25,000 with the increase in self-financing programmes. Dr Yu explained that because UGC funding for taught postgraduate and sub degree programmes will diminsih, the total UGC-funded student number is estimated to 8,000 and the total population of UGC-funded and self-
fianced students should remain between 18,000 and 20,000. In fact, the University has started to convert some buildings into classrooms.


“With new programmes and new initiatives, there are bound to be new problems,” the President responded. “In order for us to traverse the road that we're embarking on, we must organize ourselves more efficiently and in line with the duties we carry out.”


In view of staff concerns about the need to do more with less, the President explained that “doing more with less is a mandate of the new environment.” Many overseas universities face the same situation and have survived or become even stronger. “We have to face this challenge or we will perish as an individual, a professional and the University will suffer,” he said. “The only way out is to enhance our productivity and increase our contribution to society by educating more people in Hong Kong or elsewhere.”


Students' sense of belonging and boosting staff morale

In response to the students’ quest for an increased sense of belonging, the President said, “it is only through the quality of our work and appreciation of our own work and that of fellow students and colleagues that a sense of belonging can be established.” Professor Edmond Ko thanked students at the forum for participating and emphasized that, “peer influence is an important factor to raise a sense of belonging among students.”


To the comment on staff morale, the President replied that when there is a lack of direction and a change of landscape, there is anxiety. However, he

encouraged staff  “to look at the bright side, see the forest and consider what we can accomplish together.” He also acknowledged the need to open up more channels for communication with staff and reiterated his wish to continue to work closely with the Staff Association to help nurture the staff morale and work toward the cohesion of the University. “After all we are working for the same goal, and to be successful we need everybody to overcome the difficulties together,” said Professor Y S Wong.






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