HKUST soars - the founding years
This is the story of a university that has defied the odds and redefined a culture. Relentlessly investigating, pursuing, and pressing forward, it has leapt from a vision to become a dynamo for change.

And it has done so in less than two decades.

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Leading the way

When HKUST first opened its doors to students in 1991, it was already ahead of its time.

The idea for HKUST was conceived by two leaders with clear vision and strong wills: Dr the Hon Sze-Yuen Chung, and the then Governor of Hong Kong, Sir Edward Youde.

In the fast-changing economic world of the 1980s, both men
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realized Hong Kong's urgent need for a university that could propel it towards a knowledge- based economy, and provide the entrepreneurs and innovative ideas; the scientists and groundbreaking research; the engineers, global business managers and other leaders necessary. Their goal was simple - create, don't replicate.

From the outset, HKUST was designed to be different.
Only in Hong Kong

By early 1986, a Planning Committee-consisting of leaders and innovators from academia, government, commerce, industry and the community - from Hong Kong and abroad - was in place and working towards an opening in 1994, a scant eight years to build a powerful new academic institution.

After Sir Edward Youde's untimely death in 1986, the plans were put into high gear. The Committee, under the dynamic leadership of Dr Chung, pushed the date forward to 1991. Only in Hong Kong could people dare to come up with such a punishing schedule - and then turn it into reality.
Convergence of experts

Key to the success of this new university was starting from the top - attracting first-class academics in both traditional and fast-moving fields. The leader who held this key was found in the person of Prof Chia-Wei Woo, a powerhouse who was the first president of Chinese descent to head a large university in the US. Prof Woo had turned around San Francisco State University during his tenure there, making it "The City's University" and greatly strengthening its international curriculum and Pacific Rim ties.

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In taking the helm at HKUST, Prof Woo set the trend for a whole generation of brilliant academics of Chinese descent, who were ready to lay new ground in Hong Kong. They included Prof Jay-Chung Chen, expert in aeronautics and structural dynamics, top experimental physicist Prof Chih-Yung Chien from Johns Hopkins University, Prof Shain-Dow Kung, specialist in biotechnology and Acting Provost at the Maryland Biotechnology Institute of the University of Maryland, and many more.

These top scholars in turn attracted other senior academics from North America, Asia and Europe, who shared the vision of the University becoming a world-class research institution. Among them were Prof Peter Dobson, first Director of Planning and Coordination and later Associate Vice-President for Academic Affairs, who brought his expertise in administration from the University of Hawaii. They strove to attract the best research students and to transmit their enthusiasm to undergraduates and graduates alike, so that they too would aspire to creative heights.
Top support

Together with the convergence of leading academic lights, a group of highly experienced and dedicated administrators and staff were working tirelessly to turn vision into reality. Mr Ian Macpherson, Hong Kong Secretary for Transport in 1986, was appointed Secretary-General to the University Planning Committee and became the first Vice-President for Administration and Business at HKUST in 1990. He oversaw the entire scope of non-academic work in building the new university. Other non-academic administrators ensured that the University's logistical needs were met, and they continue to lead the University in maintaining and enhancing its development.
Mission impossible

While academic and administrative infrastructure was being forged, the HKUST campus was taking shape. Work ensued at a frantic pace, and some said the target was impossible. A generous and timely donation by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, who also helped manage the construction of the University, ensured that facilities for 2,000 students were ready in 1991, less than two years after the contract was awarded. A second phase, completed by the end of 1992, accommodated another 7,000 students, and provided the full complement of teaching and state-of-the-art research laboratories, classrooms, office space, more student and staff accommodations and additional athletic facilities.
And the rest is history

A dynamic outlook, a group of accomplished and forward-looking academic leaders, and a captivating campus. Within five years, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology had been planned, designed, built, organized and opened to the first group of bright young students.

And that remarkable start was just the beginning. Since 1991,
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scholars at HKUST have set new heights, producing groundbreaking achievements in areas such as physics, engineering, business and management, and the humanities and social sciences, pushing well beyond boundaries many thought fixed, and focusing the world's attention on Hong Kong. In doing so, they have educated and inspired class after class of creative and entrepreneurial students, who have gone on to produce their own research, found companies, start high-tech ventures and play their part in the community.

The result of those early years of unsurpassed effort is HKUST today - a world-class university that continues to inspire and contribute to the transformation of Hong Kong and the region.