Hong Kong gets its own Catholic university, Saint Francis University

The local government formally granted university status to the Caritas Institute of Higher Education, which has 2,500 students, a goal sought by the local diocese. It has been accredited for social sciences, business administration, and communications. The name is a reference to Saint Francis Xavier as well as Saint Francis of Assisi.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – As of today, Hong Kong officially has its own Catholic university, which will bear the name of Saint Francis.

In a press release, the Hong Kong government formally announced that it was granting university status to the Caritas Institute of Higher Education (CIHE), which is run by the Catholic Church of Hong Kong, thus becoming the fourth self-financing post-secondary education establishment to be awarded this title in the former British colony.

Last October, the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications reportedly acknowledged that the institute had met all the requirements to be a full university.

The formal approval by the government, led by Chief Executive John Lee, was needed, which was officially granted today.

Christine Choi Yuk-lin, Secretary for Education, congratulated the CIHE, stressing the government’s commitment “to provide young people in Hong Kong with quality, flexible and diversified study pathways.”

“I trust,” she said, “that the self-financing post-secondary sector would continue to play a pivotal role in nurturing talent to support Hong Kong’s manpower needs and its further development into an international hub for post-secondary education.”

With the official birth of Saint Francis University, a long-cherished desire of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong is fulfilled.

In the early 1970s, then-Bishop Francis Hsu Chen-Ping had pushed for the creation of a Catholic university. In 1985 the Caritas Francis Hsu College was founded, named after the late prelate, later changed to the Caritas Institute of Higher Education, a much-appreciated institution in Hong Kong, especially for the training of nurses.

Together with the Caritas Bianchi College of Careers (CBCC), named after Bishop Lorenzo Bianchi, a PIME missionary who led the Hong Kong diocese after his imprisonment in China, the CIHE offers post-secondary training courses in 35 different disciplines, including social sciences, technology, and economics, with about 2,500 students.

Now, with its new accreditation, Saint Francis University will be able to develop further in areas such as general business administration, social work, as well as information and communication technology. 

The current archbishop of Hong Kong, Card Stephen Chow, had also actively promoted the idea of a Catholic university in Hong Kong when he was the local superior of the Jesuits.

The initial idea was to build a completely new campus in Fanling, near the border with mainland China, but the project was rejected by the authorities on urban planning grounds.

For this reason, once he became bishop, Card Chow revived the project by suggesting that the CIHE be transformed into a university.

The name of Saint Francis University – based on a suggestion from his predecessor, Archbishop Michael Yeoung, who died in 2019 – reflects the vocation to dialogue of Saint Francis of Assisi and the missionary prophecy of Saint Francis Xavier, the great evangeliser of Asia.