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    Lingnan University’s vision for the future of the liberal arts

    Lingnan University (Lingnan) is the innovative home of the liberal arts in Hong Kong. As part of Times Higher Education’s Connect Research Stories series, six of Lingnan’s leading figures described how the university is building on both its traditional values, and the possibilities of digital technology, to create exciting pathways for both staff and students.

    “We are in a great position to venture and lead with our liberal arts education model,” noted Lingnan President Professor S. Joe Qin. This model, he said, is based on whole-person education, or boya in Chinese. Given Hong Kong’s status as a world city, Prof Qin wants to see Lingnan at the forefront of the merging of Eastern and Western aspects of liberal arts education.

    Pun Ngai is chair professor, and head, of the Department of Cultural Studies at Lingnan. “Students come to cultural studies because they would like to pursue creativity,” she explained. “Through cultural commons, through social innovation, through creativity, we can really generate different forms of community projects.”

    Prof Pun’s department created its i-COMMON platform to connect with more than 30 community partners engaged in activities such as social enterprises and organic farming.

    Lingnan’s Science Unit also values collaboration with local communities, as well as its interaction with faculty from other disciplines. “It’s important to us to show that we’re doing something of worth,” said the Science Unit’s Professor Jonathan Fong.

    Prof Fong explained that when conducting research – for example, into changes in Hong Kong’s air pollution – it was necessary to ask, ‘What does this mean to the general public?’, and can the work be used to influence public policy and make a positive impact on society.

    William Hayward, chair professor of psychology and dean, Faculty of Social Sciences, pointed out that his faculty actively engage with not only Lingnan’s many international partners, but also with the surrounding community in Hong Kong’s socially deprived North West New Territories.

    The possibilities of digital technology and data science offer new tools for this work, Prof Hayward said. “And that requires us to be interdisciplinary, to work with data scientists and to bring people in who have expertise in AI, social computation, and so forth.”

    Professor William Liu Guanglin, of Lingnan’s Department of History, grew up on the Mainland as Deng Xiaoping’s economic reforms were transforming China, and this experience, he said, has shaped his outlook.

    “Economic history is basically an interdisciplinary subject between history and economics,” Prof Liu explained. He added that it is both fascinating and challenging to reconcile the very different methodologies used in each subject.

    Yau Yung is a professor of urban studies in Lingnan’s School of Graduate Studies. As an example of the ways in which his team aims to create real-world impact and help realise a more sustainable future, Professor Yau cited its work to help end unsafe and inadequate housing in Hong Kong.

    “The city’s poorest have no choice but living in subdivided flats.” These are tiny, many have no natural light, and sometimes cooking, toilet and sleeping spaces are all in the same cubicle.

    Please click here to view the video series.