Issue No. 4 (August 2007) - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Issue No. 4 (August 2007) - The Hong Kong Polytechnic University


A notable milestone of further change came about with

the conferring of honours degrees and with a strong focus

on research. The first batch of honours degree students

graduated in 1988 from the CSE Department. The first

research degree student graduated in 1989 from the BSE


In the Division after 1985 (the forerunner of the Faculty),

the stimulus for research was driven initially by Associate

Director, Howard Ward, supported by the then Director

John Clark. Dr. Ward had previously been Head of the

CSE Department and a research start had already been

made in that Department by a small hard core of staff

during the early 80s, work which continued under the

succeeding Head Dr. K.K. Wong. The BSE Department

under Dr. Marsden had also started doing research in

the 80s. The embryo Faculty was sufficiently ambitious

to recognize that becoming more “outward” looking via

research was the pathway to realizing its potential in the

international arena. In this respect, Keith Legge, Director

from 1975-84, recognized early the importance of

forging links with China and determined to lay a strong

foundation in readiness for the time when China and

Hong Kong would be one country.

Coincidentally and conveniently, the above need to

forge links with China was likewise recognized by a

Hong Kong philanthropist, Croucher who established

a foundation in his name. Importantly, it was tripartite,

encouraging collaboration between Hong Kong, where

Croucher lived, China from where he made his money

and the United Kingdom, in which he was born.

Fortunately there was political encouragement, in that by

this time China’s “open door policy” had been begun by

Deng Xiaoping in December 1978.

A Construction

Research Culture in

Hong Kong Before

1990 was Virtually


However, the Division, as described above and true to

its commitment to serve the construction industry had

begun to make appropriate research a priority. Of valuable

assistance in this regard were our alumni who made

available research sites and data. Additionally, research

leadership, particularly in the CSE Department was

particularly strong and also in the BSE Department under

A.M. Marsden, to a lesser extent enabled the research

culture to quickly become established and which has now

become endemic across the whole Faculty.

The Division, partly for strategic reasons, focused its

research interests in areas comparatively untouched

by other research institutions. In the CSE Department,

emphasis was placed on coastal and structural engineering.

It has subsequently gone on to be a world leader in

structural dynamics, and remains strong in the modeling of

coastal waters and estuarine flows.

One of the first collaborative research examples was

driven by Dr. K.K. Wong (fluid mechanics), Dr. Howard

Ward (structural dynamics) and Dr. Kwan Lai, a Structural

Engineer, with specialized knowledge of offshore drilling in

the North Sea and Persian Gulf. A National Conference was

organized with Mainland Universities on offshore structures,

motivated by the oil crisis in 1980. This conference was

one of the first examples of collaborative work and was

followed by collaborative contacts with the South China

Sea Institute of Oceanology. The aim was to design and

create investigation equipment for work on waves in the

South China Sea.

A more recent example of collaboration with China is

seen in the Fire Research Centre, jointly established by the

PolyU and the University of Science and Technology of

China on the latter’s campus. The Centre has been highly

commended by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Another

example is the collaborative study on Acid Rain in Research

Area 4, under China’s National Basic Research Programme.

The establishment of the Faculty of Construction and

Land Use, with Professor Mike Anson as Dean, finally

occurred in 1992, 2 years before the inauguration of the

Polytechnic as a university. This change of name was a

progress leap in that it gave notice of the appropriate

scholarly status now developed in construction disciplines

in the Polytechnic. The already established structure of the

Departments remained the same, with the Centre of Land

and Engineering Surveying developing into the Department

of Land Surveying and Geo-Informatics (LSGI) and the

Department of Building and Surveying, being renamed the

Department of Building and Real Estate (BRE) in 1993. The

signal given by the change of name, indicated parity with

the international academic world. Professor Anson draws

attention to the fact that this quality had already been well

grounded in the preceding years of the Division, as a result

of the research efforts of a hard core of staff, co-operation

of alumni and a sensible restructuring of Departments and

all in line with the changing requirements of industry. Since

the establishment of the Faculty, that leap has been firmly

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