07 April 2017

When Hong Kong made the dramatic decision to add a year to university study in 2012, Professor Timothy W. Tong saw a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Professor Tong, president at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, told delegates at The Times Higher Education (THE) 2017 Young Universities Summit at QUT how his university has embraced social responsibility.

In the face of global challenges like technological disruption, food security, climate change and an ageing population, Professor Tong said universities had a key role in addressing such problems and recognising those they affect.

“How do we deal with these problems? I think universities have a lot to do in coming up with at least some of the solutions,” he said.

“We may not be able to solve all of the problems but we can be agents that contribute to solving some of these problems.

“How do we organise a university in such a way that whether we are talking about teaching and learning or research or knowledge transfer, we have a vision that our work will contribute to solving society’s problems?”

When Hong Kong moved from three-year to four-year undergraduate degrees, Hong Kong Polytechnic saw a chance to help their students - and society.

“As an academic that was the chance of a lifetime. We had this opportunity to reform our curriculum with an extra year to deliver the best education we can to our students,” Professor Tong said.

“After many debates and discussions, we decided to use that extra year of time to nurture our students to develop a stronger sense of social responsibility.”

The university focuses on four areas: service-earning and leadership, active ageing, social innovation and sustainable development.

Students must study a social learning subject before they graduate. Projects have included helping migrant children create a map of their neighbourhood to help integrate them into society and building artificial limbs for children in China.

The university also established a Good Seed program, to support social innovation projects run by Hong Kong university students and graduates.

“It allows our students to develop connections to the community early on. They will experience directly some of the problems society is facing,” Professor Tong said.

“Hopefully this experience will help our students develop a passion for helping society. What we want them to do when they graduate is bring about positive changes in society.

“The ultimate goal is very simple. We want to produce graduates who have this strong sense of social responsibility so that when they come to join society as a professional, not only will they be pursuing personal success, but they will do so by doing things that have a benefit to society.

“We want to open their minds, and they will help shape our future.”

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Media contact:
Rob Kidd, QUT Media, 07 3138 1841,
After hours, Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901,



Professor Timothy W Tong from Hong Kong Polytechnic University presenting at the Times Higher Education 2017 Young Universities Summit at QUT. Photo: Roger Philips/QUT Marketing & Communication


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