Speech– Dongbei University of Finance & Economics Freshman Opening Ceremony Welcome Address: The Educational Journey, 3 September 2019

Professor LV Wei, Chairman Xia, Vice President Zhao, Committee members, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, and of course the reason we are all here today: new students – good morning! Today I would like to speak to you about what it means to be on an ‘educational journey’.

I have become well-known in the UK for producing a Confucius quote for every occasion, and today is no exception.

Confucius reflected that, ‘The person who asks a question is a fool for a minute; the person who does not ask is a fool for life.’ 愚者不問,問者不愚

This is a very important adage to keep in mind, as you start your university study. To me, it means that the person who is afraid to admit their ignorance by asking a question, never truly develops into who they are meant to be.

The educational journey is a commitment to learning and adapting. Today, your journey begins in earnest.

My own educational journey began a very long time ago. I grew up in rural China, in a poor family in Shandong Province.

Little did I know, back then, that I’d go on to enjoy a career in academia that would take me to the forefront of knowledge and innovation.

Little did I know that I’d become the Vice-Chancellor of a leading UK university.

And I never dreamt that I would be standing before you here today.

Age 16, I went to Northeastern University, with support of a scholarship. Age 24, with another scholarship from the University of Queensland, I was able to move to Australia to do my PhD.

So, through my personal experience, I know just how universities can change lives for the better – our own lives, and more importantly the lives of others, through education and research.

This is one of the reasons I am very proud of the University of Surrey’s partnership with DUFE. Many of you will know how important collaboration is to Surrey: Surrey is made up of many talented individuals, but it’s when we work together, and connect with external institutions, businesses and government, that we are strongest.

To me, DUFE embodies the philosophy of collaboration. It requires great humility and mutual respect to build relations; we all have a great deal to learn from each other, and I hope this is also the spirit in which you will approach your university experience. Here, I hope you will find your independence, develop your leadership, communication, reasoning and critical thinking skills, and prepare yourselves for the exciting future ahead of you. On campus today, you have now joined a new ‘family’ that will always be part of your story – and some of whom will go on to be your lifelong friends. This is one of the best aspects of your university years! Whatever you will do in the future, the friendships and the personal development of these next four years will never leave you.

At this new beginning in your own educational journeys, I would like to offer you some advice: Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.[1] Even – and especially – in our culture of immediacy, success and happiness are still worth working at and waiting for. The self-knowledge won through life experience allows us to know what success and happiness truly mean. Without this self-knowledge, we might accept other people’s interpretations of success and happiness, and remain unfulfilled.

So, time taken to invest in self-knowledge is never wasted. When people tell you who they are, as American writer Maya Angelou famously advised, believe them. However — when people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them. Make it your mission to find out for yourself.

This brings me back to my Confucius quote, and how important it is to admit you don’t have the answers.

It can be humbling and disorienting to simply say, “I don’t know,” but it is more rewarding to understand, than to be right — even if that means changing your mind about a topic, an ideology or, above all, yourself. [2]  Learning how to be yourself and think for yourself is the true value of education, because it allows you to offer your own unique gifts to the world.

So do not ever stop asking, changing and growing.

We are living in a time of rapid change, with staggering technological advancement. We are often overwhelmed by the speed, connectivity and urgency of the virtual world.  Information goes through our fingers almost without going through our brain cells. But real knowledge and understanding are harder to achieve. 

How do we understand what is happening around us? What happens next? What does it mean for me? To paraphrase the Persian poet Rumi: knowledge used to be power, but nowadays knowing what to ignore is even more powerful.

From my own experience, it is important to have the patience to penetrate all the superficial information and discover the meaning and substance underneath. Only by so doing, you will be able to see a further vision and develop the skills to cope with the unknowns and disruptions of the future. 

From my humble beginning and throughout my career, I have learned that humility, resilience and foresight are most valuable traits, particularly in the face of great unknowns. As leaders, if we also embody the qualities of empathy, integrity and selflessness, we inspire trust to frame meaning for those whom we lead. 

I also think that, more than ever, the world will need to rely on humanities and Social Sciences to provide structure and understanding in the face of uncertainty. Your education here will teach you to value collaboration, share ideas and build bridges.  These values will enrich your own character, and the lives of others.

I began by quoting a Chinese sage, and I will conclude by invoking an English one – J.R.R. Tolkien. He said:

‘True education is a kind of never-ending story – a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.’

Today, I am delighted to see you at the beginning of your educational journey, radiating youthful energy and passion. I think you are well positioned to have a great experience at DUFE because DUFE embodies ambition, excellence and collaboration.  I hope your valuable education here will not only equip you to adapt to the rapid changes you will face but also lead the change you want to see for a better society.

I wish you all great success in your studies here at DUFE, and a happy and fulfilling career and life.




孔子曰,愚者不問,問者不愚 这是一句非常重要的,在你开始大学学习时值得记住的格言。对我来说,这意味着害怕通过提问来承认自己无知的人,永远不会真正成长。教育之旅是对学习和适应的承诺。今天,你的大学教育之旅正式开始。

我自己的大学教育之旅很久以前就开始了。我在山东农村的一个贫穷家庭长大。 那时,我一点也不知道我会将来在学术界有所成就。我跟没想到有朝一日我会成为英国著名大学的校长。我也没有梦想到今天我会站在你面前。16岁时,我有幸考取了东北大学。24岁时,凭借昆士兰大学的奖学金,我得以赴澳大利亚攻读博士学位。我个人的经历让我知道大学如何通过教育和研究来改变人生。这也是我为萨里大学与东财的合作感到骄傲的原因之一。你们中的许多人会知道合作对所有大学有多重要萨里大学由许多有才华的人组成,但只有当我们一起努力工作,并与外部机构、企业和政府建立合作管事时,我们才是最强大的。对我来说东财体现了合作的精神。合作需要极大的谦逊和相互尊重;我们都有很多东西可以互相学习,我希望这也是你们对待大学学习的精神。在这里,希望你能找到自己的独立性,发展你的领导能力、沟通能力、推理能力和批判性思维能力,为你们激动人心的未来做好准备。




关于学习之道,我非常喜欢儒学里”博學,審問,慎思,明辨,篤行”10个字。我们生活在一个日新月异,科技进步惊人的时代。慎思,明辨更为重要。我们经常被虚拟世界的速度、连通性和紧迫性所淹没。信息通过我们的手指传递,几乎不通过我们的脑细胞。但是很难得到真正的知识和智慧。我们如何理解正在发生的事情?接下来会发生什么?这对我意味着什么? 正如我在职业生涯中所学到的,领导者需要通过从大量数据中筛选出能增加价值的有意义的信息来传递意义。知识曾经是力量,但如今知道忽略什么知识更有力量。从我的经验来看,有耐心穿透表面并真正发现潜



我开始引用了一位中国圣人的话,最后我来引用一位英国人的话。 托尔金说: 真正的教育是一种永无止境的故事一个持续的开始,习惯性的新开始,持续的新奇。


最后我衷心祝愿给位新同学在东财的学习一切顺利,身体健康,事业和生活幸福美满。 谢谢大家。

[1] Debbie Millman.

[2] Maria Popova, Brain Pickings.