[Dialogue] Prof William Hayward shares his vision and goals as Social Sciences Dean

To Prof William Hayward, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and experimental psychologist, the social sciences play a crucial role in solving all issues.


“If you think about one of the biggest crises in the last 20 years, climate change, we know the physics and chemistry and also the solutions. But the problem is, we can’t get international governments to coalesce around policies; we can’t get individuals to make decisions to act in ways that will benefit the climate, and we can’t get the regulation that will ensure climate-friendly policies.


“Same as Covid-19: it’s incredible that biomedical scientists developed this vaccine so quickly, but that problem actually turned out to be relatively tractable, while the intractable part was getting people to take the vaccines. How do you convince people? How do you fight disinformation? Again, that is a social problem.”


His long term-goal as Faculty Dean, a position he took up in August 2022, is to show how Lingnan University can contribute to solving such local and global challenges through both education and research.


His focus is on working with students to understand constraints and benefits, the sectors in which they should perform their analysis, concentrate their potential, and recognise the outcomes of different types of decision-making.


“A lot of the jobs that our students will have during their careers have probably not been invented yet,” he says, referring to human resource trends. “A lot of domains, which in the past and even currently require people, will actually be done by autonomous systems in the future; therefore we need to train our students so that, wherever they end up, they can spot opportunities, and ways to contribute, and have really good people skills to help build teams. These are crucial, and we deliver that through our programmes.”


The Faculty’s flagship undergraduate programme is the Bachelor of Social Sciences (Hons), along with two self-financed programmes, the BSocSc (Hons) in Business Psychology, and the BSocSc (Hons) in Global Economics and Banking. Its taught and research postgraduate programmes attract students from all over the world.


Interdisciplinarity is key to LU’s liberal arts education, as are the faculty programmes. “We aspire to help students build a good network inside and out. And within that, then whether we’re training them in social policy, in economics or in psychology, they have a good combination of both the more academic and the skills-oriented sides.”


The rich residential campus, internships, and international exchange opportunities also teach students to feel at home anywhere, and give them good interpersonal skills, empathy, and the ability to understand other points of view, not only for career advancement, but, most importantly, to care about and be determined to solve problems in the community and beyond, Prof Hayward explains.


Dean Prof Will Hayward


Prof Hayward believes LU and Hong Kong have greater advantages than other parts of the Greater Bay Area (GBA). “On the Mainland, the GBA is definitely going to be very strong on the technical side, but Hong Kong can make a real contribution to the interface of the social side of that, as we mentioned earlier. There are all sorts of social sciences involved that I think we’re going to be uniquely able to provide talent for, and our graduates can definitely be prepared to enter that kind of workplace.”


A New Zealander, Prof Hayward, who is a long-distance runner, enjoys the small campus. “I really like the natural environment, the country parks next door, where I like to go for a run after work or at lunchtime. The campus is a good size, so you can really get to meet people very easily.”


Now Prof Hayward is working closely with colleagues to identify the faculty’s research strengths. “My short-term goal is to support LU, and find out what we can do well, because we are small, and we can’t do everything. This is a really great place to build up some zones of strength, some good teaching programmes and areas of research, and to bring value to Hong Kong, the Mainland and the region.”