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The University of Hong Kong

Coat of Arms of HKU
Motto Sapientia Et Virtus (Latin)
明徳格物 (Classical Chinese)[1]
Motto in English Wisdom and Virtue
Established 1911[2]
Type Public
Chancellor Sir Donald Tsang
Vice-Chancellor Tsui Lap-chee
Students 23,400 (total)
Postgraduates 11,250
Location Pokfulam, Hong Kong
Colours Green     
Affiliations ASAIHL, Universitas 21, ACU
University of Hong Kong
Traditional Chinese 香港大學
Simplified Chinese 香港大学

The University of Hong Kong (or HKU, traditional Chinese: 香港大學) is the oldest tertiary institution in Hong Kong. Its motto is "Sapientia et Virtus" in Latin, meaning "wisdom and virtue", and "明德格物" in Chinese. The official language of instruction is English.

The University is referred by Quacquarelli Symonds as a "world-class comprehensive research university" [3] and was ranked 24th in the 2009 THES - QS World University Rankings[4] , making it 2nd in Asia (after University of Tokyo). In 2009, it was ranked the 1st in Asian universities by Quacquarelli Symonds.[5]





The Main Building in 1912

The University of Hong Kong traces its origins to the former Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese, founded by the London Missionary Society in 1887 and Sun Yat-sen's alma mater. Based on the founding date of 1887, the University is arguably the oldest modern university in Greater China, beating Nanjing University (founded 1888) by a year.

The University itself was founded when Sir Frederick Lugard (later Lord Lugard, 1st Baron Lugard), Governor of Hong Kong, proposed to establish a university in Hong Kong. Lugard felt an urgent need to establish a university in China to compete with the other Great Powers opening universities in China, most notably Prussia, which had just opened Tongji University in Shanghai. The colonial Hongkongers shared British values and allowed Britain to expand its influence in southern China and consolidate its rule in Hong Kong.

HKU Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody

Parsi businessman Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody learned of Lugard's plan and pledged to donate HK$150,000 towards the construction and HK$30,000 towards other costs. The Hong Kong Government and the business sector in southern China, which were both equally eager to learn "secrets of the West's success" (referring to technological advances made since the Industrial Revolution), also gave their support. The Swire Group also contributed funds, wishing to repair its corporate image following an industrial accident that had injured many Chinese sailors. Along with other donors including the United Kingdom government and companies such as HSBC, Lugard finally had enough to build the university.

Lugard laid the foundation stone of the Main Building on 16 March 1910 and hoped that the university would educate more Chinese people in British "imperial values", as opposed to those of other Western powers.

December 1916: first congregation

The University was formally established in 1911 and had its opening ceremony in 1912. As Lugard felt that Chinese society at the time was not suited to ideals such as communism, the University originally emulated the University of Manchester in emphasising the sciences over the humanities. It opened with only a Faculty of Medicine, which had evolved from the Hong Kong College of Medicine.[6] However, within a year the Faculties of Engineering and Arts (which then did not offer sociology and philosophy degrees) were established. In December 1916, the University held its first congregation, with 23 graduates and 5 honorary graduates.

Move towards Chinese cultural education, and WW2

Student residences in 1946, with damage from the WWII visible

After the 1925-26 Canton-Hong Kong strikes, the government moved towards greater integration of Eastern culture, increasing the number of Chinese courses. In 1927, a degree in Chinese was created. Donations from wealthy businessmen Tang Chi Ngong and Fung Ping Shan - for whom campus buildings are named after - triggered an emphasis on Chinese cultural education. In 1941, the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong led to the damage of university buildings, and the University closed until 1945.

The University was founded as an all-male institution. Women students were admitted for the first time only ten years later. In 1937, the Queen Mary Hospital opened and has served as the University's teaching hospital ever since.


After World War II, the University reopened and underwent structural developments as post-war reconstruction efforts began in earnest, requiring more investment in law and social sciences. The Faculty of Social Sciences was established in 1967 and the Law Department in 1969. The student population in 1961 was 2,000, four times more than in 1941.

In 1982, the Faculty of Dentistry, based at the Prince Philip Dental Hospital, was established. It remains to this day Hong Kong's only faculty training dental professionals. In 1984, both the School of Architecture and School of Education became fully-fledged faculties, and in the same year a separate Faculty of Law was created. The Faculty of Business and Economics was established in 2001 as the University's tenth and youngest faculty.

After 1989, the Hong Kong government began emphasising local tertiary college (大專) education, retaining many local students who would have studied abroad in the United Kingdom. In preparation for the 1997 handover, it also greatly increased student places and course variety. Consequently, the 2001 student population had grown to 14,300 and degree courses on offer numbered over a hundred.

HKU has nurtured the largest number of research postgraduate students in Hong Kong, making up approximately 10% of the total student population. All ten faculties and departments provide teaching and supervision for research (MPhil and PhD) students with administration undertaken by the Graduate School. Due to this emphasis on research, including successful efforts during the SARS crisis in 2003, many University laboratories have earned the status of "State Key Laboratory" (中華人民共和國國家重點實驗室).[7]

About 45% of the University's academic staff are recruited from overseas.[citation needed]

2001: 90th anniversary

The year 2001 marked the 90th Anniversary of HKU. Growing with Hong Kong: HKU and its Graduates - The First 90 Years was published by the University Press in 2002 as an impact study on HKU's graduates in different fields of Hong Kong.

2006: renaming of Faculty of Medicine

In January 2006, despite protest from some students and various alumni, the Faculty of Medicine was renamed as the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine "as a recognition of the generosity" of Mr. Li Ka Shing and his Foundation, who pledged HK$1 billion in support of the University "general development as well as research and academic activities in medicine".

Coat of Arms

HKU Coat of Arms

HKU's Coat of Arms was designed according to a recommendation by the College of Arms in England, and bore today's crest and motto on 14 May 1913. In October 1912, HKU had already got the design from a College of Arms letter. Although the designer was not known, it was assumed to be someone familiar with school crest design. From this design, one can see HKU's early aspiration to blend East and West.

During the university's 70th anniversary in 1981, it applied to the College of Arms for a redesigned crest with a helmet and beasts on either side; this was approved in 1984. As a result, HKU became Hong Kong's only university with a complete coat of arms.


The East Gate
The West Gate
A view of Eliot Hall and Meng Wah Complex
Sun Yat-Sen statue in the Lily Pond

The university's main campus covers 160,000 square metres of land on Bonham Road and Pok Fu Lam Road in the Mid-levels of Hong Kong Island. HKU buildings are some of the few remaining examples of British Colonial architecture in Hong Kong.

The Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine is situated 4.5 km southwest of the main campus, in the Southern District near Sandy Bay and Pok Fu Lam. The medical campus includes Queen Mary Hospital, the William M.W. Mong Building and research facilities. The Faculty of Dentistry is situated in the Prince Philip Dental Hospital, Sai Ying Pun.

The university also operates the Kadoorie Agricultural Research Center, which occupies 95,000 square metres of land in the New Territories, and the Swire Institute of Marine Science at the southern tip of the d'Aguilar Peninsula on Hong Kong Island.

Main building

Main Building
Main Building corridor

The oldest structure in the University of Hong Kong was sponsored by Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody and designed by Architect Messrs Leigh & Orange. Constructed between 1910 and 1912, it originally comprised two courtyards in the post-renaissance style built with red brick and granite. The main elevation is articulated by four turrets with a central clock tower (a gift from Sir Paul Chater in 1930). Two courtyards were added in the south in 1952 and one floor in the end block in 1958. It was originally used as classrooms and laboratories for the Faculty of Medicine and Engineering and is now the home of various departments within the Faculty of Arts. The central Great Hall (Loke Yew Hall) is named after Mr. Loke Yew, a benefactor of the University in its early years. It became a declared monument in 1984.

Hung Hing Ying Building (孔慶熒樓)

Hui Oi-Chow Science Building (Office for Faculty of Education)

Financed by Sir Paul Chater, Professor G. P. Jordan and others, it was opened in 1919 by the Governor of Hong Kong Sir Reginald Stubbs and housed the student union. After World War II, the building was used temporarily for administrative purposes. The East Wing was added in 1960. The building was converted into the Senior Common Room in 1974. It was named in honour of Mr Hung Hing Ying in 1986 for his family's donations to the university. The building was subsequently used again for administrative purposes, and now houses the Department of Music. This two-storey Edwardian style structure is characterised by a central dome and the use of red brick to emulate the Main Building opposite. The building was declared a monument in 1995.

Tang Chi Ngong Building (鄧志昂樓)

The idea to establish a school of Chinese was proposed between the two World Wars. Construction of the premises began in 1929 with a generous donation from Mr Tang Chi-ngong, father of the philanthropist Sir Tang Shiu-kin, after whom the building was named. It was opened by Governor of Hong Kong Sir William Peel in 1931 and since then further donations have been received for the endowment of teaching Chinese language and literature. The building has been used for other purposes since the 1970s but the name remained unchanged. At present, it houses the Centre of Asian Studies. This three-storey flat-roofed structure is surfaced with Shanghai plaster and was declared a monument in 1995.

University Museum and Art Gallery

The Fung Ping Shan Museum

The three-storey Fung Ping Shan Museum was originally erected in 1932 as a library for Chinese books. Named after its donor, the building consists of masonry on the ground level surmounted by a two-storey red-brick structure with applied ornamental columns topped by a pediment over its entrance. Since 1962, the Chinese books collection, now known as the Fung Ping Shan Library, was transferred to the University's new Main Library and the whole building was converted into a museum for Chinese art and archaeology. Among its prized collections are ceramics, pottery and bronzes. In 1996, the lowest three floors of the new T. T. Tsui Building were added to the old building to form the University Museum and Art Gallery.


The TT Tsui Building
Robert Black College
The Kadoorie Biological Sciences Building and Pillar of Shame

According to the Times Higher Education Supplement 2008 World University Rankings, HKU is ranked 26th in the world, 3rd in Asia and 1st in the Greater China region which includes People's Republic of China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan (ROC). HKU was also included in the 2006 Newsweek rankings of the Top 100 Global Universities.


The University's Chancellor is the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, Donald Y. K. Tsang. The Pro-Chancellor is David Li. The Chairman of the University Council is Dr. Leong Che Hung. The Vice-Chancellor and President is Professor Lap-Chee Tsui. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost is Professor R. Y. C. Wong, and the Pro-Vice-Chancellors and Vice-Presidents are Professor S. P. Chow, Professor J. H. W. Lee, Professor J. G. Malpas, Professor P. K. H. Tam and Professor A. B. M. Tsui. The academic staff population is over 800.

Professor Ian Davies was the Vice-Chancellor for two years before a worldwide search culminated in the selection of Professor Lap-Chee Tsui as the new head of the University in 2002.

Research and endowment

The University of Hong Kong is a founding member of Universitas 21, an international consortium of research-led universities. HKU benefits from a large operating budget supplied by high levels of government funding compared to many Western countries. Since 1991, the Research Grants Council (RGC) has granted the University of Hong Kong a total of HK$893 million, the highest amount amongst all eight universities in the territory [1]. HKU professors were among the highest paid in the world as well, having salaries far exceeding those of their U.S. counterparts in private universities. However, with the reduction of salaries in recent years, this is no longer the case.

100 members of academic staff from HKU are ranked among the world's top 1% of scientists by the ISI, by means of the citations recorded on their publications. [2]


According to the latest profile indicators [3], the student population of the University was 21,652 in 2008-2009, comprising 11,962 undergraduates, 7,326 taught postgraduates and 2,364 research postgraduates. There were 2,068 non-local students (2008–2009) studying at the university.

HKU attracts some of the best students in Hong Kong. For the last five years, the University has admitted around 50% of all the Hong Kong A-level Grade-A students. It accepts most of its undergraduate students from Form 7 graduates of local secondary schools through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS). The University also operates an Early Admissions Scheme (EAS) which allows Form 6 students with at least 6 Grade A in the HKCEE (local schools) or at least 6 A* in GCSE or IGCSE (international schools) results to join the University without sitting the Hong Kong A-Level Examination. In 2009, over 50% of all Early Admissions Scheme applicants put HKU as their first choice.

Academic units

The university comprises 10 faculties and a number of non-faculty academic units, which provide study programmes and courses for students (source:


The School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPACE)

HKU SPACE was established in 1956 to provide different levels of continuing education on a wide range of subjects, for instance, Japanese language courses and Mandarin language courses. HKU SPACE runs its programmes without subsidy from the Hong Kong Government and it has recently evolved into a community college-type institution, somewhat similar to community colleges in the US.[8]

HKU SPACE Community College

One of the HKU SPACE campuses

HKU SPACE Community College was established in March 2000. It mainly provides sub-degree programmes for Form 5 or Form 7 graduates to further their studies. There are three main streams of programmes provided, they are Higher Diploma Programmes (2- or 3-year full time), Pre-Associate Degree (1-year full time) and Associate Degree (2-year full time).


HKU Libraries (HKUL) was established in 1912 and is the oldest academic library in Hong Kong with over 2.3 million holdings. While the total stock in physical volumes has been growing, the electronic collection has also expanded rapidly. A web-based library catalogue, DRAGON, allows one to search HKUL's books, journals and other resources.

HKUL now comprises the Main Library and six specialist branch libraries, the Dental, Education, Fung Ping Shan (East Asian Language), Yu Chun Keung Medical, Lui Che Woo Law and the Music Library. They are located in buildings around the campus with varying opening hours.

HKUL Digital Initiatives

The HKUL Digital Initiatives, through its digitization projects, has opened up online access to local collections originally in print format. The first HKUL Digital Initiative, ExamBase, was launched in 1996 and other projects of scholarly interests were subsequently introduced. More digital projects are being developed to provide continuous access to digital content and services. It now provides open access to a number of Chinese and English academic and medical periodicals published in Hong Kong.

Student life

Student services

The university provides other services to meet students' personal needs, including

Student accommodation and hall education

Residential halls

The largest residential hall in HKU, Starr Hall.

Mostly male and female with shared room types unless specified.

Non-residential halls

  • Hornell Hall (male only)
  • Duchess of Kent Hall (female only)
  • Lee Chi Hung Hall (co-educational)

Student organisations

The Students' Union

There are two officially recognised student bodies, giving opportunities for students to participate in extracurricular activities.

The Hong Kong University Students' Union (HKUSU) principally serves the undergraduate students. This organization is renowned amongst student activists, having been the main driving force behind evicting a chancellor in recent years. There was controversy when the head of the Students' Union, Ayo Chan, said that some of the protesters involved in the Tiananmen Square Massacre had acted irrationally.[9] Many students thought his remarks were offensive and he was ousted by a vote in under one week. The Postgraduate Students Association (PGSA) represents the postgraduate students.

People affiliated with HKU

Being the oldest and the only university in Hong Kong for decades, the University of Hong Kong has educated many notable people. One of them was Dr Sun Yat-sen, founding president of the Republic of China, who was a graduate of the Hong Kong College of Medicine for Chinese, the predecessor of HKU. Over 40 principal officials, permanent secretaries, and Executive Council/Legislative Council members of the Hong Kong SAR Government are HKU graduates. HKU graduates also form the senior management teams of many large organisations in the private sector, covering many business and professional fields.

Study abroad programme

In 2009, the Times Higher Education Supplement ranked the University of Hong Kong 24th in the world. Student welfare is served by several units, including the Centre of Development and Resources for Students (CEDARS), which provides guidance for most areas of student life; and University Health Service, which provides health care, referrals and preventive services. This student run organization offers more than 100 clubs and associations catering to the diverse interest of the student population.

Studying abroad students will be assigned to a local student who they can correspond with prior to departure for Hong Kong. These local students assist visiting students upon arrival at the airport, assist with settling into student residence and offer advice and support during their stay.[10]

To date, more than 3,000 students have participated in the exchange programmes through universities spanning 18 countries around the world with the support of the University Grants Committee, the University of Hong Kong Foundation for Educational Development and Research, the Hongkong Bank Foundation, the UBC Alumni Association (Hong Kong), the Dr. Lee Shiu Scholarships for Hong Kong and South-East Asia Academic Exchange, Shell (Hong Kong) Limited, and the C.V. Starr Scholarship Fund and other donations.[11]

Future development

In 2003, the HKU management panel put forth a strategic development plan with the goal of placing HKU even higher among the world's best universities in the next decade or so.

The University will build a new campus, the Centennial Campus, west of the Main Campus. The construction of the Centennial Campus began in 2008, and will have been completed by 2011.

In addition to increased academic research and development, HKU also aims to promote continuing education to the public, through improved links between the University and the School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPACE).

HKU is also trying to better its alumni and external network for financially sustainable development.[12]

Notes and references

See also

External links

Coordinates: 22°17′03″N 114°08′16″E / 22.28417°N 114.13778°E / 22.28417; 114.13778


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