HKUST 2.0: Transforming Education for the Future


The CNBC East Tech West 2021 brought together professionals at the cutting edge of the technology industry and leading investors from across the world to discuss the latest tech innovations in the industry, concluded in Nansha on Dec 2, marking the fourth time for this event to take place in the district.

Prof. Lionel M. Ni, president designate of HKUST(gz), speaks at the CNBC East Tech West 2021 event

Prof. Lionel M. Ni, president designate of HKUST(gz) was invited to speak at the CNBC East Tech West 2021 event to share visions of “HKUST 2.0”. He was the first university president to be invited to deliver a keynote speech since the inception of the conference in 2018. “I believe it is the shared mission and vision that has brought me and HKUST (GZ) to the podium of the CNBC East Tech West. The shared mission and vision are defined by two key words, namely “technological innovation”, and “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area”, he said.


Since the founding of HKUST in 1991, “technological innovation” has been enshrined in the DNA and soul of HKUST. Nowadays, in Nansha, Guangzhou, the geographical center of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, the preparatory work of HKUST (GZ) is being carried out proactively, and HKUST (GZ) is expected to open in September 2022. HKUST and HKUST (GZ) together will constitute “HKUST 2.0”. This is a milestone in the strategic development of HKUST, but what it represents extends far beyond the university itself. ““HKUST 2.0” will promote the paradigm reform of higher education and nurture innovative talents.”


Prof. Ni said the two fundamental questions about education are: What kind of talents should we nurture? and how? The answer offered by “HKUST 2.0” is: to nurture future-oriented and cutting-edge talents that adapt to the future development of science and technology industry and society; to nurture leading talents with creative thinking, innovative ability and the capability to transform new knowledge.


So, how to nurture such talents? Prof. Ni went on to elaborate that the reform will be carried out from three aspects:


First, we will innovate the academic structure and promote the integration of disciplines. Currently, the traditional division of disciplines can no longer accommodate the development requirements of science and knowledge. By virtue of the profound disciplinary foundation of HKUST, HKUST (GZ) will build a new academic structure featuring Hub and Thrust, and develop inter-disciplines, emerging disciplines and frontier disciplines. Under the framework of “HKUST 2.0”, all disciplines of HKUST and HKUST (GZ) are bound to explore fields that do not overlap and embark on complementary development. By absorbing rich nutrition from the integration of diverse disciplines, “HKUST 2.0” will nurture numerous talents who will make outstanding, sustained academic achievements.


Second, we will promote innovation in teaching and research, and train students to “put forward valuable questions”. “HKUST 2.0” will pioneer in launching the “exploration-led active learning mode for the integration of disciplines”, which replaces the traditional “teacher-centered” mode with the “student-centered” mode. Students will engage in active learning around a mission. The mission will involve multi-disciplinary knowledge, so each student is supposed to take two required courses: namely Research Methods for Integrated Disciplines and Design Thinking for Integrated Disciplines. We will also adopt a “dual tutorial system” with complementary fields or specializations across the university, including inter-disciplinary tutors, tutors from academia and industry, and tutors from HKUST and HKUST (GZ).


Third, we will promote innovation in knowledge transfer, set a foothold in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, and incubate emerging industries with new technologies, so as to turn “HKUST 2.0” into the engine of “innovation-driven development”.

Prof. Lionel M. Ni, president designate of HKUST(gz)

More importantly, said Prof. Ni, from a global perspective, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has gathered all favorable conditions, thus providing an excellent environment for “HKUST 2.0” to promote the paradigm reform of higher education and nurture innovative talents. “After more than 40 years of China’s reform and opening-up, the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area has developed a complete industrial chain. Governments at all levels have increased their support for innovation and entrepreneurship year by year. An open and inclusive atmosphere that encourages innovations and ambitions has taken shape in the Greater Bay Area, attracting talents, capital and other factors from all over the world.” Prof. Ni said.


HKUST has been expanding its presence in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area since the beginning of this century and has set up a number of research and innovation platforms and innovation and entrepreneurship incubators in Shenzhen, Foshan and Guangzhou. Companies, which are founded, funded, or incubated by the professors and students of HKUST, are growing rapidly in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, a fertile land full of innovation momentum. DJI, a leader in the drone industry, is one of the most typical examples, and a number of “unicorns” created by HKUST are coming up.


HKUST (GZ) will open in September 2022, which marks a key step for the layout of “HKUST 2.0” in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. This effort also highly echoes China’s vision of building the “Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Science and Technology Innovation Corridor”. Under the megatrend of “innovation-driven development”, “HKUST 2.0” is more than just a university. It aims to become the cradle of world-class innovative talents facing the future, the innovation base of technologies, enterprises and industries in the future, and the source of wisdom that provides innovative solutions to major challenges facing human society.

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