CityU President talks about soulware in higher education at Peking University

Professor Way Ku​o, President of City University of Hong Kong (CityU), delivered a keynote speech at a new book launching ceremony at Peking University (PKU) for his Soulware within Higher Education (“Soulware”) on 12 April 2017. The event was presided by Professor Zhu Tong, Dean of College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering of PKU. Professor Lu Jian, Vice-President (Research and Technology) of CityU, introduced the speaker. Also present at the event were about 200 PKU teachers and students, as well as academics, scientists and engineers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, other institutions and government organisations, and CityU alumni and exchange students in Beijing. 

Professor Kuo is a member of the US National Academy of Engineering and a Foreign Member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering. Divided into 28 chapters, “Soulware” illustrates the direction the higher education sector across the Strait should strive for in four major areas: higher education internationalisation, integration of teaching and research, quality and evaluation, and creativity and innovation. The book is published simultaneously in Beijing, Taiwan and Hong Kong by Citic Press, Commonwealth Publishing Group and Commercial Press, in addition to a scheduled Japanese language edition, which is a rare phenomenon. All royalties will be donated to student scholarships. 

Professor Kuo expressed that universities in Hong Kong, Taiwan and mainland China have kept abreast of international standards in the hardware and software development in the midst of global competition, and have made tremendous progress in various international rankings, but there are still hardly any universities that can really be honoured as first class. The reason for this lies in the lack of proper “soulware”. The term introduced in the book refers to “a type of culture, mentality, behaviour and thinking pattern, a kind of quality to be bred and cultivated over a period of time. To get rid of the smog of the heart.”

Professor Kuo noticed how Hong Kong lacked in innovative achievements in spite of its people with high IQ; how Taiwan was driven by extreme populism in the management of its funds; and how mainland China needed to improve in the integration of teaching and research in spite of its abundant supply of labour force. He pointed out that, judging from the best practice of leading American universities that are the forerunners in the world, the key factors for success in higher education are an independent academic environment free from political interference, dual emphasis on teaching and research, collaboration of learning with industry, diversification, a merit system, empowerment, peer review, promotion of innovation and creativity, and governance of academic affairs by professors (different from university governance), which are exactly what is lacking in universities across the Strait.

Professor Kuo told a number of thought-provoking stories in his speech before he concluded that a great deal of our problems would be solved if the higher education sector across the Strait could commit itself in the following three areas: increasing teaching and research investment and promoting free competition; reviewing existing higher education administration and rooting out conflict of interests; leaving everything to the discretion of professionals with policy assurance, upholding innovation and staying away from nano-management.

Professor Kuo is also invited by the president of Beihang University to deliver a keynote speech for the administrators at Beihang on the meaning of internationalisation and mistakes to avoid in building first-class universities on 13 April, which is the tenth speech he has delivered on “Soulware” across the Strait in the last six months.

While in Beijing, Professor Kuo accepted an interview by China Central Television, talking about future development of higher education and research. 

Note to the editor: 

Media enquiries:
Michelle Leung, Communications and Public Relations Office at CityU (Tel: 3442 6827 or 9050 7507)