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The Academy Approaches a Key Milestone

Academy Director Professor Gillian Choa

1 Sep 2023
The Academy Approaches a Key Milestone

At the helm of the Academy for almost three years now, Professor Gillian Choa has already faced a variety of major challenges, first off being to combat the pandemic; in spite of such unprecedented obstacles, the Academy has been taken to the next level under her leadership. One of Hong Kong's developmental goals in recent years is to function as a nexus for cultural exchange between the East and the West. The Academy plays a pivotal role in this by nurturing world-class creative talents and continues to promote performing arts education of the highest standard.

"The Academy is about to complete its 10-year Strategic Plan, drawn up in 2013," Professor Choa notes. “We are now planning for the next decade. In doing so, we set our sights not only on the next 10 years, but also the next 10 to 20. Our aim is to enable as well as influence Hong Kong's arts and cultural development way beyond the present.”


The Academy ranked as the top institution in Asia in the QS World University Rankings for performing arts, its fifth year in a row in pole position, and No.13 worldwide early this year. Professor Choa points out that, given most of the top rankers are world-renowned institutions with long histories, the Academy has outdone itself as a tertiary institution in Asia that is barely 40 years old. Hong Kong has long occupied an important position in the international cultural arena, as a city where Eastern and Western cultures blend. The Academy leverages this historical edge to provide students with a diverse, cross-disciplinary learning environment. 

In devising its next 10-year plan, the Academy uses the National 14th Five-Year Plan as a guide while also complementing efforts from the Hong Kong Government to develop Hong Kong into an East-meets-West centre for international cultural exchange. In last year's Policy Address, the Academy was delegated important tasks. These include its pivotal role as a performing arts educational hub for Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area (GBA), which will necessitate the establishment of an additional campus in the Northern Metropolis. The Academy was also directed to boost the proportion of non-local students.

Casting a Wide Net for Talents

It is said that change is the only constant. For educators, that means they must cast their view far and wide in terms of teaching theory, while keeping their base close to home in the cultivation of new performing arts talents, the next generation of artists who will push boundaries.


To aid the Academy's expansion, Professor Choa notes that, with the support of the Government, the Academy is now conducting studies concerning an additional campus in the Northern Metropolis.

"We aim to expand the scale of the additional campus," she explains. "For example, we hope to include living quarters for overseas students, exchange students and resident artists, allowing visiting scholars to stay in Hong Kong for a longer period to teach as well as research. This will fortify the Academy's interaction between students, staff and artists from around the world, and in turn elevate the Academy's status in the international arena."

The Academy has been reforming its programmes in recent years in an attempt to make the best use of its Wanchai campus. Professor Choa believes that the additional campus will provide much-needed space for programme development over the course of the next 10 to 20 years. She hopes the campus will also house leisure and exercise facilities, basic amenities commensurate with other local universities.

"Our students and teachers are known for their intensive schedules," she says. "Accessible sports and recreation amenities will hopefully encourage them to maintain healthier and more balanced lifestyles."

The Academy famously sets great store by practical experience. Since life regained its normality post-Covid, the Academy has organised numerous trips to the GBA for exchange with local artists. The Greater Bay Area Youth Orchestra (GBAYO), founded in 2022, received founding sponsorship from the Swire Group to foster cultural exchange across the region, and to provide young musicians with professional training and coaching, with the aim of building a platform for top-flight classical orchestral performances. The GBAYO held its debut concert tour at the Academy in Hong Kong, as well as in Macau, Shenzhen and Guangzhou successfully in August.

"I hope to see more partnerships with art groups and tertiary institutions from the Mainland and Macau," Professor Choa says. "Recently, such exchanges have mainly been focused on Music and Drama. I would like to see these expand to all our six disciplines in the short term."

Professor Choa says that her long-term plan is to establish or uncover specialised feeder secondary schools in the GBA because she believes that the earlier performing arts talents are cultivated, the better. "My dream is for the Academy to have one high school in Hong Kong and one in the Mainland in the future where teachers and students of the schools would be able to engage in active exchange, and eligible graduates could then enter the Academy directly," she points out. "That would be beneficial to nurturing more performing arts talents in the region."

A New Chapter for the Six Schools

The six Schools of the Academy are ready for fresh challenges ahead. While she was Dean of Theatre and Entertainment Arts (TEA), Professor Choa implemented reforms in the School, particularly in multimedia learning and application. As the Academy's art-technology engine room, TEA has launched a Collective Media Atelier (CMA) for research and practice in immersive media for live performance. The Atelier has been used to workshop for the School's productions in recent years.

"In the past, Cantonese was the primary language of Hong Kong drama," Professor Choa says. "But in this new era, we need to maintain an international outlook, and therefore our productions should not be bound by a single language. Co-productions are the new trend." The School of Drama will look to enhance cooperation with different art groups and stage works in Putonghua in the Mainland.

Besides, the various Schools have been launching new projects. For instance, the School of Dance has been running the Gifted Young Dancer Programme for some years, while the School of Chinese Opera introduced their Cantonese Opera Youth Programme last year. Additionally, the School of Music has travelled to Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Shanghai for performances and exchange. "In the future, the School of Music may add contemporary music to its curriculum to enhance students' exposure to different genres while maintaining a solid classical foundation," Professor Choa says.

Hong Kong film has been experiencing a renaissance in recent years, which partly demonstrates that the work of the School of Film and Television is coming to fruition. Numerous celebrated Academy alumni, including Jack Ng, Sunny Chan, Mak Tin-shu, Lam Sum and Ho Cheuk-tin, are not only making an impact as filmmakers but also creating synchronicity as they collaborate. "The School's emphasis on innovation, cross-disciplinarity and connection with industry is certainly matured and paying off," Professor Choa believes.

Capturing Hong Kong's Essence

The Academy leverages Hong Kong's unique culture and history to construct a free space for creativity. Professor Choa encourages young performing artists to see internationalism through the lens of Chinese and Asian cultures. "Through their work, young artists could hold a mirror up to their own culture and strike a chord with audiences from backgrounds different from their own," she points out. "It is in doing so that they find their own voice and style."

The Academy will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year. It has completed consultations for its 10-year Strategic Plan running from 2024 through 2033. The Plan builds on the Academy's achievements of the past decade and has the intention to continue to cultivate students' capacity for interdisciplinary as well as international collaboration and develop their skills in art technology; all the while promoting social inclusion and attracting more internships and employment opportunities in response to the needs of society and the industry.

The six Schools have also planned a series of anniversary events, a highlight of which will be a large-scale musical involving all six Schools. However, Professor Choa is so far tight-lipped about what will be presented. "Though I can't reveal too much detail at this stage, I can say with certainty that it will be an exciting work incorporating diverse cultural and artistic elements. We hope to launch a very happy celebratory year full of meaningful surprises in 2024."


(The article was published in the Sep-Oct 2023 issue of Academy News. Click here to read the original story.) 

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