Graduation address given by Professor Lawrence J Lau

Professor Lawrence J Lau, Vice-Chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, gave the following occasional address at the University of Sydney graduation ceremony held in Hong Kong on 4 November 2006.

The address From left, Professor John Hearn, Professor Lawrence J Lau and the Chancellor
Professor Lawrence Lau's address,
photo, International Office.
Professor Lawrence Lau (centre) with
Professor John Hearn (Deputy Vice-Chancellor,
International) (left) and Chancellor
the Hon Justice Kim Santow (right),
photo, International Office. 

Graduation address

Mr. Chancellor (the Hon. Justice Kim Santow), Members of the University of Sydney, Distinguished Guests, Graduates, Parents, Ladies and Gentlemen:

On this very happy occasion of the graduation ceremony of the University of Sydney, I wish to extend to all the graduates my most sincere congratulations. Graduation is an important education milestone in your lives. It marks not only the successful completion of your time at the university, but also the beginning, the “commencement” as they say in North America, of the next stage of your lives, when you are ready to join the real world. Some of you will take up employment and others will continue your education and training for advanced degrees. Whatever your plans are, I wish you all the best in your future undertakings.

Your parents and your families must be very proud of you too, for you are receiving the degree of a most prestigious University. With a history of over 150 years, the University of Sydney is Australia’s oldest university, and one of its leading research universities. Its graduates have included Nobel laureates Sir John Cornforth and Prof. John Harsanyi. Alumni of Sydney University are located throughout the world and you are now a member of this elite group. This is indeed a time for celebration.

And for me, from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, I feel most honoured and privileged to be here this afternoon to share in your joy and excitement. I am also most delighted to tell you that just three days ago, Prof. Gavin Brown, the Vice-Chancellor of your University, and I signed a memorandum of understanding between our two Universities, providing for close collaboration on all fronts, including regular student exchange beginning in 2007. This marks a new page in the relationship between our two universities, which is another cause for celebration.

Even before the signing of this agreement, our two universities are already related in many ways. A considerable number of graduates of the University of Sydney have joined the Chinese University of Hong Kong as faculty members, and 19 of them are currently on our staff list. From as early as the late 1980s, researchers from the two universities have also collaborated closely over no less than a dozen research projects, creating new knowledge in diverse disciplines such as accountancy, medicine, computer science and engineering.

This agreement is testimony of the commitment on the part of both universities to strengthen our academic ties and achieve closer interaction, which will bring mutual benefits. It also constitutes part of our overall efforts to internationalize our respective universities. Indeed, in the higher education sector, internationalization has become a central theme in this age of heightened globalisation. To be truly prepared for the globalised world, graduates of universities must be internationally knowledgeable and inter-culturally competent. Universities therefore try to internationalize their campuses, their academic programmes, as well as their research, exchange and service activities.

The objectives of internationalization are: first, to broaden the perspectives and experience of the students, to facilitate the international flow of new ideas, and to learn from the best that the world has to offer; and second, to take advantage of complementarities across universities and countries and to capitalize on their respective comparative advantages.

For example, more and more universities these days strive to create a multi-lingual and multi-cultural milieu by increasing their recruitment of teachers and students from around the world, and by expanding their exchange network to accommodate more exchange students, both outbound and inbound, and from a broader mix of countries and regions. Indeed, in a truly international university, young people from all over the world will have the opportunity to live with and learn from one another. Their horizons will be broadened, their understanding of diverse cultures will be deepened, and their awareness of the realities of the world will be sharpened. They will develop a greater capacity to communicate, empathize and tolerate. They will acquire the qualities they need to become effective in both work and personal life in an increasingly globalised world.

To enrich their academic curriculum, universities have set out to develop faculty exchanges and collaborative degree programmes with educational institutions abroad. This allows the universities to specialize in the fields of their respective comparative advantages. Universities are also redoubling their efforts to forge new links and engage in collaborative research with other universities and research institutions elsewhere. By taking part in international collaboration, students and faculty will be inspired by the cross-fertilization of ideas and be able to stay abreast of the state-of-the-art in their own fields.

Internationalization enhances the ability of universities to attract talent, raise standards, to attain critical mass through selective specialization, achieve excellence, extend its impact, and render services to not only the local but also the international community. It is therefore not surprising that universities in Australia and in Hong Kong, as in elsewhere, are actively cultivating new partnerships to facilitate reciprocal student exchange, staff mobility, collaborative research, and joint curriculum design. The Chinese University is most pleased to have found a new partner in the University of Sydney to enhance bilateral collaboration and provide more international education opportunities to the young people of Australia and Hong Kong.

Traditionally the balance of student flows between the two places has been tilted towards down under, with many more Hong Kong students going to Australia than vice versa. Hong Kong is Australia’s fourth largest source of international students and Australia is the major overseas destination for Hong Kong students. In 2005, Hong Kong accounted for over 21,000 student enrolments in Australian educational institutions.

But for shorter-term exchange for a semester or longer at the university level, the situation is more balanced, as most exchange agreements are made on a 1:1 reciprocal basis. At the Chinese University of Hong Kong, for example, we have exchange programmes with 11 leading Australian universities, to whom we send 30 of our students each year, and from whom we receive an approximately equal number of Australian students.

We also anticipate that with increasing internationalization of the local universities, more and more Australian students will be motivated to come to Hong Kong, either for the pursuit of a full-time degree or for shorter term exchange. This is partly because Australia has extensive and enduring interests in Hong Kong, which range from banking, accounting, legal, and information technology services to retail and general trading. Some 50,000 Australians are resident in Hong Kong, and close to 1,500 Australian companies are either based in Hong Kong or have representative offices here. Young people from Australia who wish to pursue their careers here should find a Hong Kong experience relevant and beneficial.

The opening and the rise of the Chinese economy over the last quarter of a century have presented unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Just last year, leaders of Australia and China, Prime Minister John Howard and Premier WEN Jiabao, agreed to launch negotiations on a free trade agreement. The Australian and Chinese economies are highly complementary to each other. China is currently Australia’s second largest export market for minerals and fuel, the third largest for agricultural products, the fourth largest for manufactures, and the fifth largest for services trade. The potential benefits from an expansion and deepening of the trade and investment relations are enormous for both Australia and China.

Hong Kong can play an important role in fostering the relationship between Australia and China because of the close ties that already exist between Australia and Hong Kong, which date back to the 19th Century, and because of the geographical location of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is not only the commercial gateway to China, but also its cultural gateway. Hong Kong should be particularly attractive to students from Australia who are interested in China and in Asia. Hong Kong is one of the very few places in East Asia in which English-speakers can live and work comfortably day-in and day-out. And the Chinese University of Hong Kong has been both bilingual and multicultural every since its foundation more than 40 years ago. At the Chinese University, students can learn about Chinese history, economy and society in either Chinese or English. And here in Hong Kong, there is complete academic freedom - scholars can study anything that is of interest to them. And there is also complete freedom of speech and freedom of information - there is the freest press in the world and access to the internet and the worldwide web is totally unrestricted. Mainland China is within each reach - the border is only 20 minutes from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Thus, the Chinese University of Hong Kong is an ideal place for Australian scholars who are interested in China and East Asia, whether for a term or as a degree student.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have received a quality education from the University of Sydney, a great international university in a great international city. Now that you have returned to your home city, you have also become a part of Australia’s network of friends here. I hope you will make the best use of your education and experience to help promote greater interaction and understanding between Hong Kong and Australia, indeed between China and Australia, and to contribute to the well-being of the peoples of both China and Australia.

It is an honour and a privilege to be with you at this very special moment. Good luck to you all in your careers and education plans. And may your international outlook continue to help you to better prepare for the rapid changes that are inevitable in a globalised world. Thank you very much.