State of the Faculty Address 2021

16 Besides, any deliberately biased admission policy, however well intentioned and justified, has been tried for half a century in the US. “Affirmative action” purports to correct a legacy of discrimination against applicants of colour. It has indeed broadened opportunity generally but has largely failed in its mission. Over the past 20 years, the proportion of African-American students admitted to the top 100 most selective American campuses has fallen by 60%, according to the non-profit Education Trust7. In part, the policy has failed because its legal basis had been shaky from the outset, as reflected by the extreme heterogeneity of views expressed through six different judicial opinions in a 5:4 Supreme Court vote in the landmark case Regents of University of California v. Bakke in 1978. The US Supreme Court may soon hear another case – Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. v. President and Fellows of Harvard College. It is a lawsuit about discrimination against Asian-American applicants in Harvard’s student admissions process. Many have come to believe this case could be the final coda of affirmative action in university admissions in America. So, like all vexed problems, there are no easy answers. But one thing is for certain: reducing this complex social problem by executive fiat that is thinly veiled real politik would be wrong and unfair for all. HKUMed will continue offering 75% of our total quota to JUPAS candidates. We will also reflect more deeply what undergraduate medical education by 2050 should become, thus how we go about it in a better way that is fit for purpose and with student wellbeing at its centre. We will not carve out an elitist subprogramme and pre-label a small minority of high school leavers as destined to become medical leaders. Because in effect, that would condemn the majority of medical students to belonging to a future working class of doctors subsumed from the outset of their medical journey simply because they score a couple of points lower on their DSE examinations. Hong Kong already suffers from extreme inequalities, we must not add to it. A university education is supposed to bring intergenerational mobility, not restrict opportunities based on birth and breeding. President Xi Jinping’s clarion call for “common prosperity” should be our guide to resolving this conundrum. University admissions is a symptom, not a cause. As the father of modern pathology and social progressive Rudolf Virchow, whose birth bicentenary we just celebrated last month, once said: Medicine as a social science, as the science of human beings, has the obligation to point out problems and to attempt their theoretical solution; the politician, the practical anthropologist, must find the means for their actual solution. 7