Challenges and Responsibilities of Universities in the Post-Pandemic Era

The COVID-19 pandemic poses unprecedented challenges for all of us, all sectors, across continents and regions. Higher education has undergone tremendous changes in the recent past. Like our partners, The Chinese University of Hong Kong has been devoting every effort to react, adapt and innovate to respond to the challenges to ensure the safety and well-being of our members, while fulfilling our primary responsibilities on education, research and serving the community.

It's clearly illustrated by the pandemic that the world has to work together. Higher education institutions are more instrumental than ever and university heads should share our thoughts and come up with creative and actionable approaches and solutions. Universities have a completely new and more important role in the society, and must provide leadership during this time through shared resources and know-how, as well as initiatives that bring teaching, learning and research together.

Our primary job is to provide education to our students and make them ready to take on the world of tomorrow. CUHK seeks to develop a global perspective and skill set among our students, so that they will become tomorrow's citizens of the world. Given the pandemic circumstances, students who had intended to study abroad are now staying; by providing them the same level of excellence in education, we will in fact benefit from gaining this new cohort of students. Innovative teaching methodology must also be done on a safe campus, and universities must also address the potential negative impact to student's mental health after having gone through such a prolonged pandemic period.  

The emerging needs of the society also necessitate that research, innovation, and technology transfer conducted by universities has to be extraordinarily impactful, specifically addressing the global public health risk and the consequential economic downturns. The global community will be better served by strong and enabling partnerships among higher education institutions across borders as well as with the industrial and the public sectors.  

 

To fulfill the social responsibilities of a university in the Global Village, CUHK is committed to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Among the 10 SDGs relevant to Hong Kong, CUHK aims to enhance its performance in 8 of them, namely Good Health and Well-being, Quality Education, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequality, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, and Partnerships for the Goals. Equitable education opportunities to all has been chronically under-provided, and is further worsened by the pandemic, which has also brought about additional economic, health, and societal disparities. These issues will increase susceptibility to a future pandemic or natural catastrophe, and each society must define them and develop solutions. As leaders in higher education, we have the responsibility and the knowledge platform to bring about the development of solutions. We must work together to realize the positive impacts of higher education to our societies and to mankind.