CityU President advocates ‘soulware’ at Leadership and Management Summit

Choi Yiu

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President Kuo stresses the importance of soulware in his opening remarks.
President Kuo stresses the importance of soulware in his opening remarks.


Future strategies for advancing higher education were discussed at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) during the first-ever summit jointly presented by CityU and Times Higher Education (THE).

More than 200 top university leaders from over 30 countries and regions shared their insights at the “Leadership and Management Summit”, which took place from 17 to 19 July.

The Summit, which is themed “Managing Universities in the 21st Century: Strategies and Innovations”, was divided into four sub-themes: “Leading universities to greatness: the future of governance”, “Managing your university for success”, “Financing the future university – changes on the horizon” and “Engagement to advance your institution”.

In his opening remarks, Professor Way Kuo, CityU President, said one of the essential aspects of university leadership was “soulware”.

He pointed out that while universities possess both hardware and software, in the form of textbooks and knowledge, respectively, for example, “soulware”, on the other hand, refers to a type of culture, mentality, behaviour, and thinking pattern. It’s a way to analyse how universities contribute to society.

More than 200 guests from over 30 countries or regions attended the Summit.
More than 200 top university leaders from over 30 countries and regions attended the Summit.


He urged all university leaders to make “the best use of the hardware and software at our disposal, spearheading innovation and entrepreneurship, maintaining autonomy and academic freedom, and combining teaching and research in the classroom”.

The purpose of education is for academics and students to learn, and both teaching and research can contribute to that process, according to President Kuo.

“Soulware is a mission that we look forward to. It ensures that universities are necessary for society instead of ornaments,” he added.

In his opening remarks, Mr Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer of THE, noted that today’s universities face substantial challenges including global competition for students and staff and that they experience increasing pressure on their finances. At the same time, universities have to demonstrate their value to society through research that identifies solutions to urgent global challenges and through teaching that prepares students for societal changes.

“Universities are in need of strong, visionary, inspirational leadership across multiple functions and roles,” he said, adding that the Summit was a great occasion for university leaders to share their insights and experience to ensure universities stay vital.

Under the sub-theme “Leading universities to greatness: the future of governance”, participants explored global trends and the characteristics that leaders need if they are to implement change within their institution. They also discussed whether leaders should be chosen or elected.

Another sub-theme focused on managing universities for success. The discussions centred on measures that universities need for recruiting, supporting and retaining talent as well as to encourage excellence.

Professor Alex Jen Kwan-yue, CityU Provost, hosted a forum titled “Can academics manage themselves?” on whether academics should be left to manage their own performance, or whether performance management systems and practices of modern enterprises could be drawn on to improve academics' effectiveness and efficiency in a university environment. Participants exchanged views on whether universities should replicate the private sector when it comes to management and whether such a move would stifle creativity and hamper academic freedom.

(From left) Mr Baty, Mr Huang, Professor Jen and Professor Lee.
(From left) Mr Baty, Mr Huang, Professor Jen and Professor Lee.


Financial sustainability is also a matter of concern. Issues such as the rise and fall of the student population, industry needs, government spending and policy shifts were identified in a session under the sub-theme “Financing the future university – changes on the horizon”. Attendees explored how university leaders can ensure their funding model is responsive to change. There were also discussions on student loans.

The fourth sub-theme discussed how institutions could engage and mobilise their stakeholders to effectively support them in reaching their goals. Leaders in industry, higher education and civil society who have remodelled their systems, including branding, fundraising, human resources and performance management, shared their experiences in this session. A forum on the definition of a good university in the 21st century was also held.

Professor Matthew Lee Kwok-on, CityU Vice-President (Development and External Relations), was a speaker at one of the panel discussions. He shared his views on “Rethinking reputation: what does it mean to be a good university in the 21st century?”

Mr Lester Garson Huang, CityU Council Chairman, gave the closing remarks today, bringing the Summit to a successful end.  

The Leadership and Management Summit brought together top university leaders to explore how universities can meet the challenges of the next few decades. For more details, please visit:

The guests had a fruitful exchange of ideas during the Summit.
Delegates have a fruitful exchange of ideas during the Summit.



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