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21 Apr 2021

CUHK Vice-Chancellor Professor Rocky S. Tuan Contributed to the International Higher Education Forum 2021 (English version only)

21 Apr 2021

Professor Rocky S. Tuan (Left, upper row) shares his views on the challenges the universities faced under the pandemic at the online forum.

Professor Rocky S. Tuan, Vice-Chancellor and President of The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) joined his counterparts from the University of Cambridge and Monash University, together with Amazon Web Services at the International Higher Education Forum 2021 hosted by the Universities UK International on 14 April 2021 to look at the challenges universities are facing and what they have learned from the pandemic.

Reflecting on the title of the panel discussion “Are systems around the world radically reforming international activities in response to COVID-19?”, Professor Tuan stressed that one of the key things the world has to learn from this pandemic is the need for international understanding and partnership.

Chaired by Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Liverpool, other speakers on the panel were Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor, University of Cambridge; Professor Margaret Gardner, President and Vice-Chancellor, Monash University; and Mr. Jude Sheeran, Principal, International Education and Research, Amazon Web Services.

Professor Tuan compared the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to a tsunami which has seriously disrupted the fundamental operational mechanism of the knowledge business that universities are in, not just in terms of travel, personal contact or interactions but also financial turbulence, political tribalism, protectionism and exclusionism. Universities have the responsibility to refunctionalise the movement of knowledge. With widespread adoption of online learning, information collection and transfer now is largely done on the cloud. With less safe-guarding and monitoring of these collections of information, they may become contaminated and result in misinformation. The ability or rather the inability to control this will have dire consequences. Professor Tuan urged universities to use their collective efforts to address this as our world, very much like the internet, is borderless.

Professor Tuan called for stronger international collaboration in what he described as the “three-legged stool” of higher education, namely education, research and service. In particular, he urged for greater collaboration in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which serve as unifying themes for different communities of people across the globe. He considered that SDG10, the goal of reducing inequalities, as the most important one as it is the root of many different societal problems. He illustrated this by citing CUHK’s global engagement efforts including a Virtual Student Exchange programme launched last fall under the Association of Pacific Rim Universities which has attracted participation from 26 universities across four continents.

About International Higher Education Forum

The International Higher Education Forum (IHEF) provides a platform for staff who are responsible for developing international strategies across student recruitment, transnational education, research and mobility to get to know about the latest developments in the education sector. This year’s Forum which was held online on 13 and 14 April brought together hundreds of higher education professionals to explore the challenges and opportunities facing the sector, from pandemic and student recruitment, to Brexit and the future of transnational education. For more details, please visit:

About Universities UK / Universities UK International

Founded in 1918, Universities UK (UUK) is currently the collective voice of 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It aims to maximise positive impact on students and the public in the UK and globally through teaching, research and scholarship. Universities UK International (UUKi) is the international arm of UUK to promote universities abroad, and create new opportunities for the sector.

Professor Rocky S. Tuan (Left, upper row) shares his views on the challenges the universities faced under the pandemic at the online forum.

Professor Rocky S. Tuan (Left, upper row) shares his views on the challenges the universities faced under the pandemic at the online forum.


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