Saudi search for the best

Former Hong Kong University of Science and Technology president Tony Chan Fan-cheong has left Hong Kong to head the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

Siu Sai-wo

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Former Hong Kong University of Science and Technology president Tony Chan Fan-cheong has left Hong Kong to head the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia.

He bid farewell to readers in his popular column in The Standard last week, and expressed the heartfelt wish that Hong Kong may distance itself from the political quagmire and rekindle its can-do spirit.

His interest in writing the column was sparked some years back after a visit to the Sing Tao group's headquarters in A Kung Ngam, the neighborhood where he grew up.

Chan is very approachable. He had worked at universities in the United States, where a main responsibility of the president is to raise money.

But his top priority at KAUST is not to raise funds but to take the university, which has a history of less than 10 years, to new heights as an excellent institution.

Talking about his new post earlier, Chan noted that the university has no lack of financial resources, having received a US$10 billion (HK$78 billion) donation from the king, and had the state-owned Saudi Arabian Oil build its modern campus of close to 400,000 square feet.

The university's founding president was Shih Choon-fong, former head of the National University of Singapore. He served one five-year term at KAUST.

The school aims for international prominence in a short time to attract outstanding scholars and students from all over the world to join and to build itself into a hub of elites.

Most prestigious universities in the world have long histories. The relatively young KAUST, which has "Rolls Royce-class" facilities, has managed to make a name quickly.

To be the new head of the school is a difficult job even if it does not heavily involve fund raising, and it is a challenge that Chan has boldly taken up.

is publisher of Sing Tao Daily