The Liberal Art University in Hong Kong
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2 September 2013

President Leonard K ChengDear colleagues, students and alumni,

This is my second day as a staff member of Lingnan University. It is my great honour to be president of this 125-year-old university. Since its founding in Guangzhou in 1888, Lingnan has seen generation after generation of talented graduates. The preservation of our outstanding traditions and promotion of liberal arts education on this solid foundation are the common goals of all Lingnanians, and, in particular, my mission for the next five years.

Though not an expert in liberal arts education, I am convinced that it can cultivate humanistic attributes such as a broad horizon, flexible thinking, sound moral judgment, a sense of responsibility and care for others. These qualities have become more valuable than ever in today’s increasingly globalised society, with deepening  significance for both students and the community at large. My daughter also graduated from a liberal arts institution in the US. From her learning experience, career opportunities and the alumni support she received after graduation, I greatly appreciate the advantages of liberal arts education. I chose to join the Lingnan family precisely because I hope to work with you to achieve the aspirations of liberal arts education.

Let me take this opportunity to share with you my vision for Lingnan. As the smallest local university in terms of student population, I trust Lingnan will continue to make the best of its compact size, close faculty-student relationship and residential campus, in order to allow motivated, hard-working young people to grow in all directions and develop their full potential. This will enable them to freely explore the culturally diversified world today that values both global and local understanding. I hope Lingnan will become the preferred institution for local secondary students who yearn for such a university life, and who share the goals of liberal arts education. I trust our teaching and research staff will continue to take advantage of the free and open environment here, dedicate themselves to educating our students, stand at the forefront of knowledge and innovation, and use their professional knowledge to serve Hong Kong, the region and the world. If we can achieve good results in these areas, Lingnan will earn its reputation as an outstanding liberal arts institution both in Hong Kong and abroad in due course. Employers and other members of the public will also give us greater support.

As for how to achieve our goals, I believe we must put our heads together, hold extensive discussions and incorporate the views of all important stakeholders. Before making any major decision, we should understand the views of our students, staff and even alumni. We should collect their views through effective channels. Student representatives should also be included in the decision-making process where appropriate. I intend to have regular meetings with students and shall try to interact with them on other informal occasions – perhaps even while jogging on campus! I hope students will see me not only as president, but also as a friend with whom they can directly discuss and share their thoughts.

Academic freedom is the cornerstone of the university and the cornerstone of knowledge. Without academic freedom, an institution cannot be a genuine university. For nine years I worked as head of the Economics Department at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). For another six years I was the acting dean and dean of their business school. During my service, both offices enjoyed complete academic freedom. As president of Lingnan, I will continue to do everything I can to defend academic freedom and the freedom of speech and expression of all staff and students.

I am an economics scholar who has spent my whole life at universities. After working at the University of Florida for 12 years, I joined HKUST in 1992. In the challenging environment of the tertiary education sector today, I believe my experience in academic administration will help Lingnan achieve the goals of liberal arts education and showcase its unique educational values. Like most university students, I came from the grass roots of society. I led and participated in the activities of a department society, a student-run newspaper and the Supervisory Council of the Student Union. Students should take studying as their first priority, but they should also care for the well-being of the community and champion justice.

Words are best proven by deeds. Let us work together to build an even better Lingnan.

With best wishes,
Leonard K Cheng
President