Real impact on the international stage

It should be no surprise that Professor Joshua Mok Ka Ho was named among the top 2 per cent of the world’s most cited scientists in the recent study by Stanford University.

Over the years, he has been an influential voice and published extensively in fields ranging from comparative education policy to social development in contemporary China and East Asia. In the process, he has brought new insights, thought leadership and, where appropriate, a more entrepreneurial approach in policy research and institutional governance. In so doing, he has proved the undoubted value of working within and across the disciplines of sociology, political science, and public and social policy.

The latest accolade, though, is just one of many that Lingnan’s Vice President has received in the course of a notable career, which has seen him always ready to push boundaries, encourage debate, and explore new themes.

“My recent research is focused on the age-friendly city and its impact on productive ageing,” says Mok, who is also the university’s Lam Man Tsan Chair Professor of Comparative Policy and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “But I have also done research and published on international student mobility, especially in the context of Covid-19, and the emergence of new forces in geopolitics, soft power and issues relating to knowledge diplomacy. These areas are really fascinating to me.”

In fact, such interests can be traced all the way back to one of Mok’s earliest career objectives: to serve the wider community, perhaps in a government or civil service role.

To that end, he enrolled for an undergraduate degree in public and social administration offered by City University of Hong Kong – the first of its kind – and later went on to read for both a master’s and a PhD in sociology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and London School of Economics.

“I have never changed my original dream of serving others, but I adopted a different pathway,” says Mok. “As a social scientist, I am making use of knowledge and research to analyse important social problems and potentially make a contribution to the policy debate and the search for solutions.”

When approaching anew topic, his first requirement is to identify a “window” that allows a way in. Often, he has found this in the field of international and comparative education, which typically offers a great platform for research, teaching, and interdisciplinary studies.

In particular, it affords the chance to consider relevant issues from multiple viewpoints. And this, in turn, makes it possible to assess more clearly how specific policy changes can have an impact on everything from the number of mainlanders studying overseas to graduate employment, student well-being, and innovations within higher education.

“My team and I adopt mixed methods to generate first-hand data for analysis,” he says. “In this way, we can achieve evidence-based results which reflect a comparative and international perspective.”

Those achievements have seen Mok honoured as a leader by the World Council of Comparative Education Societies (WCCES). Indeed, the latest edition of the council’s prestigious journal, Global Comparative Education, highlighted the influence he exercises through his research and practical works.

It also took due note of his extensive scope, creative outlook, and comprehensive understanding of emerging trends in China and the Asia-Pacific region.

“I enjoy working and collaborating with scholars from different parts of the globe,” says Mok, who was named Chang Jiang Chair Professor, a position of national standing, by the Chinese Ministry of Education in 2010. “As a result, I have been able to establish Lingnan’s links with partners like the Centre for Higher Education based in Oxford and to promote recognition of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals within the tertiary-level curriculum.”

Those forward-looking, entrepreneurial instincts have also been apparent in series of other highly respected initiatives. For instance, Mok is not just widely published, but also the founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Asian Public Policy, as well as Asian Education and Development Studies.

“Regarding the former, my dream at the outset was to make it a leading journal in the field of policy studies with a focus on Asia,” he says. “I am happy that it has gone on to become one of the top journals in the field, having been ranked as an SSCI Q1 journal.. I’m very proud of that.”