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Speech by SED at opening of Symposium on Internationalisation (English only)

     Following is the speech by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, at the opening of Symposium on Internationalisation organised by The Standing Committee on Internationalisation, Heads of Universities Committee, today (October 31):

Professor Kuo, distinguished guest, ladies and gentlemen,

     Good morning. I am most honoured to be invited to address this distinguished Symposium on Internationalisation.

     In the 2009 Policy Address announced by the Chief Executive a couple of weeks ago, he gave an outline of our plan to develop education services and to strengthen our position as a regional education hub. This Symposium is indeed most timely to put our heads together and share our ideas on the most effective way to move forward.

     As the Asia's World City, Hong Kong enjoys a number of advantages, including our excellent geographical location, unique position in blending Chinese and Western cultures and our world-class universities. Nevertheless, a number of our neighbours are also gearing up to develop as regional education hubs. To stand out from our neighbours as a regional education hub requires a shared vision and concerted efforts of the Government, institutions, staff and students.

     Let's first take a look as to where we are today. The number of non-local students in Hong Kong has reached 9,200 in the 2008/09 academic year. This represents a 50 per cent increase since the 2005/06 academic year. In addition, close to 3,000 of our students are involved in exchange activities and a similar number of overseas students come to Hong Kong on exchange every year. We expect that the number will increase further when our undergraduate programmes are extended by one year from 2012/13 onwards and students will have more opportunities to go abroad.

     The efforts at the institution level are also impressive. Our faculty members are recruited from around the world. They have brought with them a wealth of international experience and network. They adopt world standards and best practices in curriculum design. Our institutions are involved in a number of academic and research collaboration programmes with their counterparts from all over the world. Some even have joint research centres and offices in the Mainland. Most of our universities are offering programmes in conjunction with overseas institutions. Indeed, Hong Kong is a vibrant market for non-local courses. At present, there are over 1,200 non-local higher education and professional programmes with over 40,000 students. These courses are providing non-local higher education opportunities for our students in Hong Kong.

     On the part of the Government, we spare no effort in providing a policy framework that helps achieve our goal to develop Hong Kong as a regional education hub. Last year, we implemented a number of initiatives including increasing non-local student quotas, relaxing immigration and employment restrictions, and establishing the HKSAR Government Scholarship Fund. The Research Grants Council has recently established the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme that aims at attracting the best and brightest students in the world to come here to pursue their PhD programmes in Hong Kong's institutions. I understand that the response is very encouraging.

     Looking ahead, the Government will continue our effort to internationalise our higher education sector. For example, we are exploring the possibility of allowing Mainland students to enrol in our non-local courses at degree or above level and short-term courses offered by our higher education institutions. We will also explore what more can be done on the promotion side to reach out quality students in the region. We are planning to raise our profile through our overseas offices.

     Institutions no doubt have an indispensable role to play in the process. Today's Forum itself embodies institutions' commitment to be internationalisation of our higher education sector. I would like to highlight several areas in which institutions' contribution is especially important.

     Top on the list is of course quality assurance. The key component of success is quality assurance. It enhances the international competitiveness of our institutions and programmes. The fact that five of our institutions appear in the top 200 universities in the world is quite an accomplishment. As we continue to grow and develop, we need to ensure the deliverance of quality education remains our top priority. As we venture outside Hong Kong to set up campuses and programmes elsewhere, we need to make sure the quality of our higher education here in Hong Kong remains solid. With so many cities aspiring to be an education hub, one area that will make us stand out from the others must be the quality of our education programmes. Only this will ensure Hong Kong remains attractive as an education hub.

     Furthermore, institutions can broaden opportunities for collaboration and network with local and overseas institutions. I would encourage our institutions to step up promotion and exchange overseas, particularly in Asia. With our graduates and faculty coming from all over the world, we should leverage on the network of people we have cultivated throughout the years. The Government will work with the institutions on how to strengthen our efforts in this area.

     Internationalisation goes well beyond academic exchange. International students who come to Hong Kong to study would be able to immerse in the local culture and daily lives. Institutions can help by enhancing the learning experience of our international students and fostering the interaction between local and non-local students. If we would like these quality students to stay in Hong Kong after graduation to work and contribute to our talent pool, they need to enjoy Hong Kong and like Hong Kong.

     Internationalisation is more than just attracting additional non-local students to Hong Kong. The quality of talents that may be nurtured through the process, as well as the academic and culture exchange resulting from it should not be overlooked. With the right direction in mind, and the concerted efforts from all sides, we should not be far from our way to success.

     Thank you.

Ends/Saturday, October 31, 2009
Issued at HKT 12:56


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