A new Jesuit university—in Hong Kong

Leveraging a global network to build a liberal arts college—a novel concept in the region.

A new Jesuit university—in Hong Kong
Photo from Getty Images

For several years, a new Jesuit university in Hong Kong has been on the drawing board, gradually moving from an idea to an institution. SCU Presidential Professor of Global Outreach Don Dodsonhas been playing a leading role in designing and creating the new school. Now, with the first meeting of the university’s trustees and land slated for tender this spring, open doors may soon be a reality.

President Michael E. Engh, S.J., serves on the board of trustees for the proposed liberal arts college. In January he and other trustees met to discuss details about the institution’s founding, should the proposal be accepted by the Hong Kong government. Along with Georgetown University’s president, Jack DeGioia, S.J., Fr. Engh delivered a keynote address on Santa Clara’s experience with “Higher Education for Combating Poverty.”

The meeting of the advisors for the proposed university made headlines in Hong Kong. There are two Jesuit high schools in the region, but the launching of a Jesuit university—and what and how it would teach—is big news. That’s true locally, but it’s also important for the global Jesuit network of higher education and its mission.


In one sense, the proposed university has been a long time coming: The Jesuit commitment to education in China goes back more than 400 years, to the work of Matteo Ricci, S.J. With Santa Clara serving as a founding partner, that would also mean forging connections between internationalized Hong Kong and Silicon Valley—“where entrepreneurism, creativity, and innovation have flourished for 40 years,” as Fr. Engh noted.

“A broader education offers students inspiration and models to create solutions to modern problems,” Fr. Engh said. “In the face of growing poverty, inequality, pollution, and social strife, effective solutions require students with both broad and deep knowledge to address the complexity of these issues.”


Size: 3,000 students initially

Studies: Three paths—humanities, natural sciences, and social studies

Location: Queen’s Hill, a former British military base in the Fanling area

This vision of education “includes, but transcends, individual success.” At Santa Clara, some of the ways that vision are articulated is through programs of the Ignatian Center for Jesuit Education, such as the Jean Donovan Fellowships that support students who design their own community-based learning experiences at home or abroad. Likewise, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics affords the opportunity to study and guide decision makers about ethical issues in business, government, education, and health care. And the Global Social Benefit Incubator, based in the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, has worked in its first decade to assist small startup companies to scale up to larger and more profitable operations. The lives of tens of millions across the globe are the better for it.

The South China Morning Post expressed keen interest in the fact that the college would include courses in theology. These, Fr. Engh noted, offer students understanding of their “interior spiritual lives”—and they mean grappling with big questions like the meaning of evil and what it is to be human.

Returning from Hong Kong, Fr. Engh observed that the meeting had offered a reminder of how valuable global cooperation on a project like this can be: “We are a part of something much bigger, more powerful, and of greater impact than the contributions of a single institution. Collectively, the Jesuit network of institutions around the world is doing impressive things that empower communities through education, and its potential is growing.”

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