A new strategic plan, charting the direction of CUHK in its next phase of development
Founded in 1963, with fewer than 1,400 students and 300 staff, CUHK is home to over 30,000 students and 8,000 staff members today. Recognized globally as a leading comprehensive research university, and one of the finest in Asia, CUHK has come a long way.
CUHK cherishes the vision of achieving excellence with purpose and responsibility, seeking to forge a better future for all and, in particular, contribute to the development of Hong Kong and mainland China, through education, research, innovation and service.
With the largest campus among all the universities in Hong Kong, and by far the most lush and green, CUHK is also the only university in Hong Kong that offers a collegiate experience, with unique college-based learning programmes forming an integral part of the undergraduate curriculum. Over 9,000 students now reside on campus, across nine Colleges and six Postgraduate Halls of Residence. This number will grow to more than 10,000 in the near future, when the construction of three new hostels is completed. By 2027, another three hostels will open their doors, which will further enhance the campus environment, as well as learning experience, making CUHK a destination of choice for both local and international students.
The University launched a five-year plan in 2016, which set out its key strategies for expansion. Progress over the past five years has been encouraging. Although the validity of university rankings may be open to doubt, the fact that CUHK has risen from 138th place in 2016 to 56th in 2021 in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings, and from 51st in 2016 to 39th in 2022 (published in 2021) in the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) rankings should be taken in a positive light. Among the universities in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, CUHK was ranked third in the 2020 Ranking of Top Universities in Greater China, behind Tsinghua University and Peking University. This ranking, which grew out of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, relies on bibliometrics and institutional statistics, unlike some of the other rankings that make use of academic reputation. In 2016, CUHK garnered HK$644.5 million in research funding. In 2020, the figure has grown to HK$1,178.4 million, and the number of PhD students has grown about 23% to nearly 2,500 during the past five years. Reflecting the University’s effort in promoting internationalization, over 40% of our students enjoy some form of global learning exposure, supported by a network of nearly 300 partners. This effort did not go unnoticed, as CUHK is ranked the third most international university in the world based on the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. These improvements are not trivial given the highly competitive environment and bode well for the University’s future.
The time has come for a new strategic plan, charting the direction of the University in its next phase of development.
Road Map to Excellence
A strategic plan is a road map, not a straitjacket. In an era of rapid change and significant disruptions, universities need to remain nimble and agile in anticipating future trends and responding to emerging conditions. The COVID-19 pandemic is a case in point, forcing universities worldwide to make drastic adjustments. Nevertheless, the goals and ambitions outlined in a strategic plan help focus attention and resources, while remaining committed to achieving excellence in all areas across the University. One may want to identify and achieve certain peaks, but for a great university there must be a high level of excellence across the board. This is the context in which the CUHK Strategic Plan 2021–2025, or ‘CUHK 2025’ for short, is set.
Seven key areas are addressed in ‘CUHK 2025’:
These focal points may be conceptually distinct, but they form a holistic whole, and must thrive together to create and nourish an ecosystem that is conducive to the flourishing of human development as well as knowledge creation, dissemination, exchange and application.
Continuity and Change: Excellence with Purpose and Responsibility
CUHK is proud of its traditions. ‘CUHK 2025’ is in one sense a continuation of the University’s previous strategic plan. However, continuity always finds itself amidst change; the human condition is never static. ‘To combine tradition with modernity; to bring together China and the West (結合傳統與現代 融會中國與西方)’ —this stands at the heart of the mission of CUHK and will continue to guide our aspirations.
At the same time, tradition must seek fresh interpretation in every age for it to stay relevant, truly alive, resulting in a fusion of horizons that garners and distills the wisdom of tradition in addressing current issues constructively and creating value for present and future generations. This is the spirit that underlies the formulation of ‘CUHK 2025’, not to attract attention with novelties that often fade away as quickly as they arrive, but to focus and enhance the strength of our community to further the fundamental goals of the University.
The external environment poses serious challenges for university development at this juncture. There are global issues such as climate change and the emergence of new infectious diseases that cry out for urgent attention. There are equally critical local concerns. Demographic shifts, geopolitical fissures and inequality add to the complexity of the higher education landscape. In this context, there is every need for the University to focus on its core business in achieving excellence in education, research and service. The theme of ‘CUHK 2025’ is excellence with a deep sense of purpose and responsibility. This does not drive a wedge between theoretical and practical knowledge, or between basic and applied research. Rather, excellence with purpose, which entails responsibility, sharpens our vision and emphasizes the impact and contributions we make towards a better future.
Excellence is as much a process as it is a desired end. As an end, excellence is marked by achievements of the highest quality. As a process, it extends beyond operational success that measures the execution of business strategies by short-term results. As a process, excellence defines the self-understanding, aim and sustained effort of individuals and institutions in achieving the best possible outcomes. Excellence with purpose and responsibility renders explicit that these outcomes serve the interests of humanity. Excellence is not an accolade we seek, but a commitment to making a positive difference through education, research, engagement and everything we do.
In modern Chinese, the word xin (心) means the heart. However, in classical Chinese philosophy, xin signifies the seat of cognition, emotions and ethical dispositions, and as such it is often translated into English as the ‘heart-mind’. This points to a holistic understanding of the self and personal growth, bringing into view the perceived integral nature of intellectual and ethical excellence. The CUHK motto, ‘博文約禮’ or ‘Through learning and temperance to virtue’, reflects a similar view. While recognizing the need for new interpretation and application, the University is committed to staying true to its roots, in the belief that, as the Confucian Analects aptly puts it, ‘Once the roots are established, the Dao or Way will grow.’
In the final analysis, this is the kind of excellence we seek, of both heart and mind, with purpose and responsibility, exemplifying the highest standards, and as a process of building a community that embraces diversity and stays united in its effort to enrich the lives of the people of Hong Kong and beyond. World recognition will come because of this commitment and the results we achieve, which is a consequence but not the reason for engaging in the pursuit of excellence. Through ‘CUHK 2025’, which involved extensive consultations with the University community, we hope to be able to take another firm step in that direction.