Chapter Three

Strategic Plan 2015–2020 and Hightlights of Major Accomplishments

3.1 Strategic Plan 2015–2020

In 2015, CityU issued its Strategic Plan 2015–2020 titled Making a Difference through Excellence in Research and Professional Education, providing a roadmap for the University to take action around five strategic themes in order to realise our aspiration to become a leading university for professional education and problem-based research in Asia:

  • Deepen Discovery & Innovation in Professional Education
  • Expand Interdisciplinarity and Team-based Research to Address Global Challenges
  • Strengthen Internationalisation and Global Partnerships
  • Enlarge Capacity for Knowledge Transfer and Entrepreneurship
  • Enhance Good Governance and the CityU Brand

This Plan articulated CityU’s continuing emphasis on promoting discovery and innovation as core elements in our educational enterprise, and initiating cutting-edge, high-impact, interdisciplinary research projects to address global and local challenges and to advance the quality of life.

As a result of our strategic investment in resources, dedicated teamwork and the strong support of the Council, staff, students, alumni and the wider community, CityU has shown its uniqueness and strengths to the world. Though only celebrating its 25th year as a university in 2019, CityU’s colleges and schools have emerged as leaders in important fields of professional study, offering outstanding academic programmes to nurture the talents of our students, and expanding the frontiers of knowledge to advance science and engineering, and for the betterment of society.

3.2 Highlights of Major Milestones and Accomplishments

Building on our firm foundation and established track record, CityU has a well-earned regional and international reputation as an innovative hub for research and professional education addressing global issues and empowering positive change.

CityU is ranked:

  • 52nd in QS World University Rankings 2020 from 108th in 2015
  • 4th in QS “Top 50 under 50” 2020 from 5th in 2015
  • 15th in THE Asia University Rankings 2019 from 23rd in 2015
  • 90th in QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2020 from 201st+ in 2017
  • 1st in THE Most International Universities 2020
  • 1st in THE World University Rankings 2019 in “International Outlook”
  • Computer Science: 13th in the world and 1st in Hong Kong (2020 Best Global Universities1)
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering: 15th in the world and 1st in Hong Kong (2020 Best Global Universities)
  • Engineering: 16th in the world and 1st in Hong Kong (2020 Best Global Universities)
  • Business: 27th in the world and 1st in the Asia-Pacific region (UTD Top 100 Business School Research Rankings in 2019)

Our academic excellence is evidenced in the 2016 QAC Quality Audit Report. The Audit Panel found ample evidence demonstrating the success of CityU’s discovery-enriched curricula in enhancing the student learning experience. The Panel also commended CityU for its effort in facilitating innovation among students and staff across various disciplines, and praised the excellent network of student services and the variety of overseas exchanges and internships promoting global engagement.

A more detailed account of CityU’s Major Milestones, Accomplishments and Supporting Initiatives in Appendix 1 provides evidence of upward growth and development along the strategic areas set out in the Strategic Plan 2015–2020.

1 By US News and World Report

The CityU brand of professional education, emphasising discovery and innovation, has enabled the University to transform its curriculum and has provided all students with opportunities to make original discoveries. Students have been encouraged to participate in competitions; many have outperformed their counterparts at other universities and have won a myriad of awards. CityU’s brand of professional education has been recognised by the University Grants Committee, which presented the 2017 UGC Teaching Award to a group of CityU staff in recognition of the University’s bold commitment to embedding discovery and innovation in its curriculum.

To support these curriculum changes, several new departments were created, including the Department of Infectious Diseases and Public Health, the Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Neuroscience. The first six-year Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine programme in Hong Kong was offered in 2017 in collaboration with Cornell University. The School of Data Science and the Hong Kong Institute for Data Science were established in 2018 in direct response to the increased demand for data scientists and engineers to support future societal and economic developments, and the interdisciplinary Bachelor of Science in Data Science programme was offered from 2019/20.

Expanding our professional education and interdisciplinary research in life sciences and biomedical sciences under the One Health paradigm is a core strategic priority in the 2019–2022 triennium. CityU has increased the student numbers for biomedical engineering and biomedical sciences programmes to meet the increasing demand for highly-skilled and well-trained healthcare and biomedical professionals in Hong Kong over the next decade.

The University has devoted considerable resources to help prepare both undergraduate and postgraduate students for their future careers. Research students are required to take up Teaching Assistant duties and to attend a compulsory course to prepare them for successful university-level teaching. Our faculty play a key role in helping research students develop academic links with scholars in their fields, publish research findings, apply for academic positions, engage in knowledge transfer, launch start-ups, and connect to industry. One exciting example of such connections is the establishment of Vitargent (International) Biotechnology, which was co-founded by a CityU PhD graduate utilising award-winning technology developed at CityU and which has been acclaimed as Hong Kong’s next unicorn company. With the many career preparation initiatives offered by the University, including the signature employers’ luncheon, careers festival, cultural immersion programmes, global work attachments and internship placements, our students are well prepared for the workplace. More than half of our bachelor’s degree graduates have been engaged in internships and placements at organisations and companies within or outside Hong Kong.

There has been continued improvement in our graduate employment with 90% in full-time employment and having increased income, according to data collected from the Graduate Employment Survey in 2018. Our employment ranking has risen to 90th in the world and 19th in Asia in the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2020. These improvements confirm our increased effort in enhancing students’ employability.

A University-wide task force has been established to formulate and coordinate outreach and networking programmes to better prepare secondary school students for higher education and for the CityU brand of professional education. A number of initiatives have been launched with the intent of attracting the best students and nurturing their talents, including the CityU Scholarships for Hong Kong Talents and the Non-Local Student Athletes Admission Scheme.

In addition to solid training for future professions, students’ other talents were nurtured. One particular achievement was CityU students’ dominance in inter-varsity sports competitions through winning a record-breaking 9th Grand Slam in the 2016/17 annual sports competitions organised by The University Sports Federation of Hong Kong, China. The University also ran cultural and social initiatives including arts festivals, community engagement service learning programmes, service leadership training and culture promotion programmes, with the aim of helping our students develop as well-rounded, creative and caring citizens.

In line with our strategic target of significantly increasing research degree student numbers, the 2018/19 research postgraduate student enrolment number of 1,896 increased by 13% from the previous year. In 2019, 376 research postgraduate and professional doctoral students graduated from CityU.

Three overarching themes identified in the Strategic Plan 2015–2020 spearhead interdisciplinary research and education: One Health, Digital Society and Smart City. The Hong Kong Institute for Advanced Study established in 2015 strengthens a global partnership promoting research, education and innovation under these three themes to contribute to solutions to pressing real-world problems.

Evidenced by the accomplishments of our faculty researchers, CityU has continued to nurture cutting-edge, discipline-based and interdisciplinary research. New discoveries and innovations, such as super alloys, a droplet-based electricity generator and a tiny on-chip lithium niobate modulator, have extended the frontiers of knowledge. The work of our researchers also benefits society. One example is the development in 2019 of groundbreaking technology to accurately perform early screening for cancer cells and effectively monitor disease status, allowing patients to know their risk of cancer as early as possible.

In the 2019/20 funding cycle, CityU won a total of 192 General Research Fund and Early Career Scheme grants with total funding of over $111M, the fourth among the eight UGC-funded institutions. The University secured over HK$50M competitive external grants for veterinary and One Health research from local and international funding schemes.

With the approval of the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China, CityU has established two State Key Laboratories and one Hong Kong Branch of Chinese National Engineering Research Center; meanwhile, the annual funding support from the Innovation and Technology Commission was increased to HK$10M for each laboratory from 2019 onwards. Four CAS–CityU joint laboratories were accredited by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in the evaluation conducted in 2018. Among these four laboratories, the Joint Laboratory of Nanomaterials and Nanomechanics, established by CityU and the Institute of Metal Research, was ranked by CAS as an “Outstanding” joint laboratory. In addition, in 2019, CityU teams secured HK$12M from the Research Grants Council under the Joint Laboratory Funding Scheme to enhance the research infrastructure of the CAS–CityU joint laboratories in Hong Kong.

Ten of our faculty members in Engineering, Materials Science, Computer Science and in cross-field research were named Highly Cited Researchers for 2018 by Clarivate Analytics, reflecting the high academic standard of our faculty and our excellent research performance. The list acknowledged their positive impact on the research community and on society.

Through the Jockey Club College of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences, in collaboration with Cornell University, CityU created a unique and strategic platform for interdisciplinary research in veterinary medicine, neuroscience, cancer biology, regenerative medicine, nanomedicine, and biomedical engineering to promote the effective control and prevention of infectious diseases, sustainable development of local farms and fisheries, and the development of animal and human pharmaceutics, biological products, and diagnostic services in Hong Kong and the region. A companion animal clinic was acquired and a veterinary diagnostic laboratory was established as subsidiaries to further advance our development of translational research under the One Health paradigm.

To prepare our graduates for leadership and success in the increasingly global environment of the 21st century, we have strengthened our overseas exchange programmes through a total of over 400 student exchange partners in 45 countries and regions, as of 2019. More funding support has been provided through a variety of programmes to enable more local students to go abroad and gain international experience. More than half of our undergraduates have international experience and, on campus, one third of the students are non-local.

CityU adopts a mixed and balanced approach in the recruitment of non-local students as part of our internationalisation strategy. We have reached out to recruit students from countries and regions whose cultures are less familiar to our local students, such as the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. A Diversity Grant launched in 2016/17 supports students from countries less represented on the CityU campus to achieve a more balanced mix of our international student population in order to enrich learning and broaden perspectives. In 2019/20, international students from 71 countries were successfully recruited.

Conscious efforts have been made to integrate non-local students with their local peers. Examples of these efforts are the multiple student-initiated projects organised annually by student groups and funded by the University to enhance interaction, promote cooperation, and foster mutual understanding. An extensive orientation programme has been organised to help enrich non-local students’ international experience at CityU, along with other programmes and activities on campus and in halls of residence, with the additional aims of strengthening integration and providing opportunities for local students to interact with their peers from around the world.

Our curriculum has been globalised through joint degree initiatives that broaden the student learning experience and expand global partnerships. Our renowned partners include Columbia University, National Taiwan University and Leuphana University. CityU started collaborating with Columbia University to offer a joint bachelor’s degree in Computing Mathematics and has extended this collaboration to other disciplines, including Computational Finance, Business Economics, Business Analysis, Computer Science, Asian and International Studies, Politics, Applied Sociology, Psychology and Applied Physics. Among the 29 graduates from this demanding programme, many are now working in multinational corporations such as Google and Goldman Sachs, or pursuing further studies.

As of January 2020, 72% of our regular faculty was non-local, contributing to the diversity of our already multicultural campus. The majority of these faculty members came from Mainland China, the United States, and the United Kingdom; others, from countries as various as South Africa, Uzbekistan, Finland, Mexico and Uruguay.

To support social and economic development by nurturing innovation, facilitating knowledge transfer and promoting entrepreneurship, the University has strengthened its intellectual property management process and produced tangible results. In 2018, CityU was ranked 63rd among the Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted US Utility Patents, and was top in Hong Kong for receiving the greatest number of US utility patents for three consecutive years, starting in 2016. Inventions of high commercialisation value were pursued for patent filing, and in 2017/18, our invention commercialisation rate was 20%.

The University promotes all forms of knowledge transfer, including technological and non-technological transfer, and CityU faculty have forged closer links with industry, NGOs and government. In 2017/18, CityU faculty partnered with over 1,500 organisations.

In 2017, CityU launched the CLP Low Carbon Energy Education Centre in order to connect research and education to emerging industry interests within Hong Kong. This Centre, the first of its kind, brings together professional bodies, green groups, government departments and businesses to promote public education on climate change and to develop innovative solutions through cross-sectoral collaboration. CityU will make use of this unique platform to promote low-energy living for Hong Kong as a smart city ready for the challenges of climate change.

Different levels of collaboration have been undertaken to broaden our Mainland corporate partnership and strengthen institutional support for knowledge transfer and entrepreneurship and thus to drive increased innovation by our students, faculty and staff. In 2020, CityU signed an agreement with the Dongguan government to develop a multilateral and interdisciplinary platform that can strengthen collaborations contributing to the Greater Bay Area development in education, research, technology transfer and innovation. Together with our Shenzhen Research Institute and our Chengdu Research Institute, these strategic platforms provide a springboard for CityU to enhance our participation in the Belt and Road national initiative, expand the career pathways of our graduates, and extend the global outreach of our professional education, research, and knowledge transfer activities. The CityU Research Centre on One-Belt-One-Road signed an agreement in 2016 with Tsinghua University and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe to establish the International PPP Specialist Centre of Excellence for Public Transport Logistics.

To encourage entrepreneurship, an online collection of relevant information has been created and available for use from 2015, covering a wide range of topics from creativity to practical tips on business plan writing to fundraising from venture capital investors (http://libguides.library.cityu.edu.hk/entrep). In partnership with Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP), CityU runs the CityU–HKSTP Incubator Scheme as part of a joint university incubation programme that provides financial subsidies and mentorship for selected student entrepreneurs.

Effective engagement activities and our strong performance in world rankings have substantially strengthened the CityU brand, resulting in enhanced support and donations from the community. The University received major donations including HK$500M from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust in 2017 to build the One Health Tower, HK$200M from Dr Yeung Kin-man and HK$100M from Dr and Mrs Li Dak-sum in 2015, HK$100M from BOCHK Charitable Foundation in 2017, and HK$120M from Dr The Honourable Lee Shau-kee, GBM in 2018. Community support is also evidenced by alumni engagement. In 2017, over 5,000 alumni, students, staff and their families participated in the homecoming gala and campus run. Alumni events were also held outside Hong Kong in locations including Gold Coast, London, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, Toronto and Xichang.

The University is committed to excellence, good governance and accountability. Particular efforts have been made to address long-term issues in human resources. In 2018, the University implemented a one-off voluntary departure scheme, a new human resources model with some human resources operations delegated to academic units and a job rotation of eight senior administrative staff. In 2019, the long-standing complex grading structure for non-academic staff was simplified to a seven-level broad banding structure. These initiatives helped enhance the performance quality of the University and strengthened the sense of ownership of academic units, hence raising operational effectiveness and ensuring the efficiency of the search for talent, which is key to the University’s strategic development. The University has continued to ensure its financial well-being as well as promoting the general well-being of the staff at work. The Staff Social Club was launched in 2015 and health/sustainability initiatives such as “Wellness For All” and “No Straw Campus @ CityU” were introduced. In 2017 and 2019, the University was awarded the prestigious international Silver Level and in 2020 the highest Gold Level “Exercise is Medicine on Campus” recognition from the American College of Sports Medicine.

We have intensified our efforts towards institutional identity building and strengthened our image as a leading global university pursuing high levels of excellence and promoting innovation. In 2019, we launched our redesigned website, a strategic branding platform that communicates our achievements and successes. In the same year, we released the corporate identity manual on the visual identity of CityU to help build a more effective, unifying and recognisable brand for all parts of the University and all the activities the University undertakes.

At CityU, we support the vision of excelling in research and professional education through artistic, innovative, technology-rich and cross-disciplinary exhibitions, and engaging with the community. Establishing an exhibition gallery and organising the annual CityU Arts Festival are two such initiatives. Since its establishment in 2015, the CityU Exhibition Gallery, named the Indra and Harry Banga Gallery in 2019, has organised cutting-edge, technology-rich and cross-disciplinary exhibitions to enhance the integration of science and art, and to inspire innovation at CityU. One example is the award-winning “ANiMAL: Art Science Nature Society” exhibition, on show from October 2018 to January 2019, which was unique in its blending of art and science and its engagement with some of today’s most urgent issues.