History and Development
Lingnan University – The Early Days in Guangzhou
In 1888, 14 years into the reign of Qing Dynasty's Emperor Guangxu, the American Presbyterian Church set up a school in Guangzhou known as the Christian College in China. Its first intake of just 30 students began attending lessons there on March 28 the same year. This was the forerunner of Lingnan University, which was re-established in Hong Kong 40 years ago.
In 1893, the Christian College in China disassociated itself from the American Presbyterian Church, and it became a Christian university governed by a board of trustees based in New York. Due to China's political instability at that time, the College became the target of anti-foreign antagonism. In 1900, the government's suspicions about its activities were aroused when Shi Jianru, one of its former students, unsuccessfully tried to assassinate the Viceroy of Guangdong and Guangxi. To avoid political reprisals, the College temporarily retreated to Macau. In 1903, it changed its English name to Canton Christian College, and it adopted the Chinese title Lingnan Xuetang. This was the first time it used the term Lingnan. While it was based in Macau, the College did consider the possibility of moving to Kowloon. However, it finally returned to Guangzhou in 1904, where it occupied a new site of about 30 acres that had been purchased at Kangle Cun, Henan, Guangzhou. It was to become the College's permanent location.
The College grew from strength to strength after building its new campus. Looking out at the scenery to the north of the campus in 1911, one of its alumni, Sz-to Wai, was inspired with a design for its emblem. This featured Guangzhou's Baiyuan Mountain, the Pearl River, lychee trees, and the garden of the campus itself. The emblem is still used today, as well as the red and grey colour scheme that the College adopted for its flags at sports meets.
In September 1912, the College changed its Chinese name to Lingnan Xuexiao. By 1918, it began offering university-level programmes, and it awarded certificates to its first three graduands. At the same time, 15 renowned universities, including Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford and Toronto, announced that Lingnan's graduates would be eligible to apply for their postgraduate programmes. This was a milestone in the College's history.
In 1926, Lingnan Xuexiao fell foul of a new regulation imposed by the nationalist government that prohibited foreigners from operating universities in China. It responded by establishing a predominantly Chinese board of trustees who took over its administration. In January 1927, the trustees elected Chung Wing-kwong as its President, and Lee Ying-lam as Vice-President. Under this new leadership, the College changed its English name to Lingnan University, and the Chinese name was altered accordingly. In March the same year, President Chung asked the government to officially recognize Lingnan as an international, private, Christian university. A man of great resourcefulness and determination, he laid solid foundations for Lingnan during his tenure. Between 1927 and the eve of the war of resistance against Japan, its curriculum was expanded from the original arts and science courses to include agriculture, commerce, civil engineering and medicine. Primary and secondary school, classes for overseas Chinese, and a Lingnan school in Hong Kong were established too. In the process, Lingnan emerged as a key educational institution in southern China.
During the anti-Japanese War, many well-known high schools followed the government's lead in moving to the west. Being a private university, Lingnan decided not to follow suit. In 1938, on the eve of Guangzhou's fall to the enemy, it eventually decided to move to Hong Kong, where its middle school had relocated at Leung Garden, Castle Peak Bay, the previous year. Lingnan continued teaching at what is now the University of Hong Kong campus, while its department of agriculture leased farmland in Tuen Mun. More than 90% of its students at that time came from Guangzhou, including a number who had previously studied at other colleges.
Following the fall of Hong Kong in December 1941, Lingnan University's President, Lee Ying-lam, led its faculty and students on an arduous journey to Shaoguan in northern Guangdong Province. Assisted by the nationalist government and its US-based trustees, the University re-established itself there at Qujiang Dacun, and the campus was renamed "Lingnan University Village". However, as the war progressed, Lingnan was forced to move once again, this time to Meixian, east of the Pearl River.
The Japanese surrender in 1945 made it possible for Lingnan University to return to its Guangzhou campus, where its long-suffering President Lee Ying-lam, who took on the mission to restore the campus, completed the formidable task of reconstruction. In August 1948, Chen Xujing took over as the new President, and he oversaw a rapid rise in its status. Himself a well-known academic, Chen was a proponent of westernisation, and he was determined to make Lingnan University the best higher learning institution in the country. Even before taking office, he engaged a considerable number of renowned faculty members from top-notch institutions, such as Tsinghua University, Academic Sinica, and Union Medical College. He also used his charm and connections to secure the appointment of literary giants such as Chen Yinke, Wang Li, Liang Fangzhong and Rong Geng, thereby consolidating Lingnan University's leading position in the humanities field. The University became a magnet for the best minds of contemporary China, thus opening the most magnificent chapter it had ever experienced.
However, Lingnan's golden era came to an end with a nationwide higher education programme reform undertaken in late 1952. The former Lingnan campus became the campus of Sun Yat-sen University, while the former programmes or faculties of Lingnan University were merged into other institutions in Guangzhou. This abruptly ended Lingnan's 60 eventful years as an eminent education institution in the Chinese Mainland.
The Re-establishment of Lingnan University in Hong Kong
Following the closure of Lingnan University in Guangzhou, its alumni began to nurture a common goal – to re-establish it in a new location. In 1966, the Lingnan University (Hong Kong) Alumni Association and members of the Lingnan Club formed the Lingnan Education Extension Committee at the invitation of the Lingnan Secondary School Board of Directors. The Committee's mission was to revive Lingnan University in Hong Kong. In September 1967, Lingnan alumni in the city set up the Lingnan College Co Ltd, as a first step towards its re-establishment. To promote this cause further, Lingnan's educational enterprise in Hong Kong, Lingnan College Co Ltd, merged with Lingnan Secondary School Co Ltd to form the Lingnan Education Organization Co Ltd.
The first classes of the new Lingnan College were conducted at Lingnan Middle School. They were attended by 100 students, including 30 freshmen and some boarders. As the years passed, and with the alumni's increasing support, Lingnan College was able to build more facilities, including a teaching and administration block, main hall, language laboratory, library, and hostel for faculty and administration staff, just like other tertiary institutions. Thanks to the efforts of its staff, and students, the College's status as a tertiary institution had gained recognition from over 70 North American universities by 1974. In 1978, it was recognized as a registered post-secondary institution; it changed its name to Lingnan Xueyuan in Chinese and started offering government-subvented programmes.
In the following ten years, Lingnan alumni helped build the College into a highly regarded institution, thereby laying solid foundations for its future. It continued to grow strongly as it entered its second decade. In 1983, its President, Dr John T S Chen, took upon himself the laborious task of raising the College's academic standing. He lived up to his promise. During his tenure, he appointed a large number of renowned academics, re-structured the academic departments, reformed the curriculum, and promoted general education, all to prepare for Lingnan's accreditation. In December 1987, the United Kingdom Council for National Academic Awards conducted a comprehensive institutional review on Lingnan. The Council's report spoke highly of Lingnan's leadership structure, teaching quality and administrative efficiency, as well as the standards of both its students and teachers. The Council highly commended the College for its rapid development over the years, and concluded that Lingnan's academic level was on par with institutions under the aegis of the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee (UPGC).
Encouraged by this, Lingnan College stopped offering two-year programmes and asked the government to increase its subvention to a level that would enable it to develop honours diploma programmes. This request was approved in 1988, and additional funds were provided to employ teachers and administrative staff, as well as to establish facilities required by the new programmes. At this time, the government was about to make Lingnan a member of the UPGC, which would enable it to confer degrees. This was helped by a review of the College by the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation in 1991. Its members were impressed by the excellence of its teaching and administrative staff, and the achievements of its students. Lingnan was deemed qualified to offer degree programmes. The government accepted the members' proposal, and Lingnan was made a degree-conferring institution under the UPGC in the same year. To facilitate its future expansion, Lingnan moved to a new campus in Tuen Mun in 1995 and launched Master of Philosophy programmes. In 1998, it was given self-accrediting status; and in 1999 it was renamed Lingnan University. The University continued to grow as it entered the 21st century, adding postgraduate programmes and establishing a school of continuing education and a community college, thereby offering quality education to Hong Kong and the region.
Lingnan's Liberal Arts Education
Lingnan's initial four-year undergraduate programmes were based on the humanities (including social sciences), business and science programmes that had been offered by its predecessor in Guangzhou. In 1967, it established a department of music. However, its science department closed in 1978, due to lack of funding.
Lingnan adopted a 2-2-1 course structure during the same year. This consisted of a two-year advanced-level course, a two-year higher diploma course, and a one-year honours diploma. Student enrolments increased considerably following this change, which gave it greater potential for further development. With a view to reforming its academic programmes, Lingnan stopped offering programmes in its music department, and social science and general education programmes were introduced in 1983. As general education was rated highly by the accrediting bodies and general public, it was made a compulsory subject. A translation course was added in 1986. By this time, Lingnan's advanced-level course was gradually being phased out, and the resources devoted to it were devoted to developing the honours diploma.
When Lingnan University came under UPGC funding in 1991, the first bachelor programmes it offered were in translation and social sciences. These were followed by Chinese and business administration programmes in 1994. In 1995, under the presidency of Professor Edward K Y Chen, Lingnan initiated a series of reforms to pave the way for its attainment of university status. These focused on strengthening its academic and administrative structure, promoting a quality assurance mechanism, evaluating teaching and administrative staff appointment procedures, and enhancing research activities.
Lingnan is unique in being the only liberal arts institution in Hong Kong. To broaden its students' outlook, it places equal emphasis on professional training and language and IT literacy. In addition, Lingnan seeks to integrate classroom learning, hostel life, and campus activities in order to achieve whole-person development and nurture students' ability in critical thinking, appreciation of aesthetics, ethics, and leadership skills. Students also learn to interact with others, and acquire an understanding of history and culture. Such an approach allows students and graduates to excel amid the exciting changes taking place in Hong Kong, the region, and the world. To enhance the effectiveness of liberal-arts education, Lingnan University introduced Integrated Learning Programmes (ILP) in 2001. These offer training in civic education, intellectual development, physical education, social and emotional development, and aesthetic development. Lingnan's aim is to encourage students to learn outside of the classroom, and be knowledgeable, and cultured.
With determination and courage, and through years of exploring and experimenting, Lingnan has found its niche in the local education scene – offering liberal arts education. With hardware and software facilities to complement, Lingnan has been a role model for liberal arts education in Asia.
International exchange is an essential feature of Lingnan's undergraduate programmes . As early as the 1990s, it was actively forging collaborations with overseas universities and academic organisations. These resulted in distance-learning programmes, data exchange, and exchanges of students and scholars with institutions in Australia, Japan and the US. In the 21st century, Lingnan continues to uphold the spirit of "engaging the world", and it has established exchange programmes with more than 40 overseas institutions in the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, France, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, and other places.
In line with this internationalisation process, Lingnan's faculties and their overseas counterparts have conducted frequent exchanges; and the number of overseas teaching staff at Lingnan has increased. The University is truly international.
Aside from overseas collaboration, Lingnan also continues to strengthen its exchanges with institutions of higher education on the Chinese Mainland at both faculty and student levels.
At faculty level, Lingnan students are doing postgraduate studies at Zhejiang University; and joint research projects, seminars and other academic activities are being conducted with Nankai University, Xiamen University, Sun Yat-sen University, Jinan University, Guangdong University of Business Studies, and Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. These collaborations have become a regular part of the work of academic faculties.
At the student level, Lingnan welcomed the first Chinese Mainland students from Lingnan (University) College, Sun Yat-sen University and the South China University of Technology in September 1999, who were admitted to the undergraduate programmes under the Hong Kong Jockey Club Scholarship Scheme. Following this, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Renmin University of China and Northeastern University also participated in the programme. In 2000, Lingnan counted Tsinghua University, Renmin University of China, Northeastern University, Xinjiang University, Donghua University, Zhejiang University, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Shandong University, Sun Yat-sen University, South China University of Technology, and South Western University of Finance and Economics among its partners. Such student exchanges, as well as the presence of Mainland students undertaking undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, have greatly enhanced the understanding of local students about the Chinese Mainland.
Aiming for Higher Ideals
The government provided Lingnan with a new campus at Fu Tei in Tuen Mun when it became a member of the UPGC in 1991. The campus became operational in 1995. Its architectural design incorporated features of Lingnan University's original site in Guangzhou, thereby reflecting its fine tradition, which dated back to 1888.
The campus provides accommodation for a large majority of the University's students for at least two years of their three-year undergraduate studies – the highest percentage among all the local tertiary institutions. The close affinity of the campus and hostel helps to foster camaraderie among the students, and it helps to educate students in a holistic manner, as is the University's mission. In addition, it also nurtures a powerful sense of belonging, and inspires students' learning and thinking. The mutual respect and trust that students experience at Lingnan is to help them develop inter-personal skills.
The University's new campus, new resources and new directions work together to bring out the best of the true Lingnan spirit. Lingnan has achieved many important milestones that it can feel proud of, especially since it acquired university status in 1999. In 2003, a Teaching and Learning Quality Process Review (TLQPR) report spoke highly of its outstanding success in enhancing the quality of teaching. The same year saw another confirmation of its progress in promoting liberal arts education, with the quality of its teaching rated best among all the eight local tertiary institutions in a survey commissioned by the Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly. In 2006, the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) conducted by the University Grants Committee placed Lingnan's research index in fourth position among Hong Kong's universities, just behind the three research-intensive universities. This reaffirms the professionalism of Lingnan's academics, because it underlines their commitment to research, as well as their dedication to cultivating good relationships with their students.
Professor Chan Yuk-Shee became the University's President in September 2007. To continue Lingnan's fine tradition, Professor Chan's vision for Lingnan includes building more hostels to provide accommodation for all students in their undergraduate years.
A guiding light has always burned brightly within the heart and mind of every member of the Lingnan community. This light inspires them to work towards a common goal – to maintain the Lingnan spirit. It has been quite a journey – from the Stubbs Road campus in Wanchai to Fu Tei in Tuen Mun, and from the re-establishment of Lingnan in Hong Kong to its designation as a university. The journey would not have been possible without the generosity and assistance of Lingnan's many alumni, friends, and supporters. The Lingnan spirit, and the vision and hard work of everyone associated with it over the years, have transformed it from a modest educational institution into the renowned liberal arts university that we see today.
When Lingnan was re-established in Hong Kong 40 years ago, there has been overwhelming support from our many alumni, and business and community leaders, each in their own way. In appreciation of their dedication and selfless devotion to the cause of Lingnan through the years, the University says thank-you to each and every one of them, on the occasion of Lingnan University's 40th birthday.