|The President in Davos and (above, third left) with other international higher education heads at the Global University Leaders Forum.|
January saw a spotlight on HKUST and Hong Kong at one of the world’s foremost gatherings of leaders in business, politics and education when President Tony F Chan attended the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Among others joining the events were former US Vice-President Al Gore, UK Prime Minister David Cameron, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, PRC Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi, and heads of leading global universities.
WEF, headquartered in Geneva, brings together global thought leaders and seeks to be a catalyst for international initiatives and reconciliation to improve people’s lives around the world. It is the second time that President Chan has participated, following a visit in 2013. On both occasions, he was the sole university head from Hong Kong to attend.
Global trends and insight
"Going to Davos is both a great privilege and a great responsibility,” he said. “It offers an unmissable opportunity to let global thought leaders know what is happening at our University and in Hong Kong as a whole in education, science and technology. There is also a really valuable chance for exchange, which enables the University to gain insight into the very latest thinking and developments on-going in top universities in different parts of the world.”
Along with meetings and attending talks, President Chan also participated in the far-reaching Global University Leaders Forum on “New Paradigms for Universities of the Future”. The discussion brought together around 25 leading university presidents and vice-chancellors from institutions including Oxford, Harvard, Cambridge, MIT, ETH Zurich, EPFL, and Yale. HKUST was one of a handful of universities from Asia to take part.
Changing parameters for higher education
One major issue at the Global University Leaders Forum was how technology is changing the parameters for higher education through different forms of online provision, most noticeably in recent times through the rise of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). MOOCs provide anyone who is linked up to the internet with access to free courses from universities around the world, including top-ranked institutions. Such courses have attracted hundreds of thousands of students. The heads of edX and Coursera, two main providers of MOOCs, attended. HKUST is a member of both consortia and was one of the first universities in Asia to launch a MOOC.
The shifting global and regional landscape facing universities today and challenges and opportunities for institutional leaders to watch was another key topic. Presentations ranged from the affordability of higher education and its impact on student access to the challenge of sustainability in terms of universities’ role as members of the community in which they are located, and the preservation of a distinctive individual culture.
In addition to WEF at Davos, President Chan and HKUST faculty members have also presented at IdeasLab at the "Summer Davos" in Tianjin in 2012 and in Dalian in 2013.