College Initiatives

Distinguished Visiting Scholar — Professor Tang Shui Yan

Professor Tang Shui Yan delivered two public lectures during his visitation.

United College has invited Professor Tang Shui Yan, Frances R and John J Duggan Professor of Public Administration and Chair of the Department of Governance and Management in Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, as the Distinguished Visiting Scholar in 2022-2023. Professor Tang, Mrs Tang and their son visited United College from 25 March to 2 April. The visitation was sponsored by the University and United College Endowment Fund.


Professor Tang, an alumnus of United College, received his Bachelor of Social Science in 1982 and MPhil in 1984 from the Department of Government and Public Administration at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He completed his doctoral work at Indiana University, USA. During his doctoral study, he was a member of the research team on common-pool resource governance under Professor Elinor Ostrom, who received her Nobel Prize in Economics in 2009. Professor Tang’s dissertation “Institutions and Collective Action in Irrigation” was awarded the Leonard D White Award for the best doctoral dissertation in public administration by the American Political Science Association in 1990. The dissertation was later published as Institutions and Collective Action: Self-Governance in Irrigation, one of the most cited books on irrigation management.

Professor Tang joined the faculty at the University of Southern California in 1989 and has built a distinguished scholarly record. He has continued his work on common-pool resource governance, with scholarly publications on land conservation, water resources, endangered species preservation, and local fisheries in multiple countries. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, he published a series of articles on microfinance and peer-lending as vehicles for economic development and poverty alleviation from an institutional design perspective. Several of his articles in the subject have become standard references for scholarly work in the field.

In the first lecture on “How to Think about Institutions, Behavior, and Governance, Professor Tang summarised the content in his new book project and examined ways of thinking about institutions, behavior, and governance by raising several fundamental questions. By reviewing the rationales, recent research, and evolving answers to these questions, the lecture facilitated us to understand some of the perennial challenges of building and sustaining good governance in China, the United States, and beyond. Professor Tang also reflected on what he learned as a student at United College and how it has helped shape his intellectual development.

In the second lecture on “How Macro-Institutional Contexts Constrain Environmental Governance: Comparing the United States and China”, Professor Tang highlighted how marco-institutional contexts constrain options for environmental governance by drawing on his research on the US and Chinese environmental management systems. Using examples in water resource management and air pollution control from both countries, he explored how fundamental differences in the two governing systems affect their respective approaches to addressing environmental problems. The relative strengths and weaknesses of the two systems were illustrated. Both Lectures would be uploaded to CUTV in due course.

The two public lectures attracted close to 1,200 audiences.

After the second public lecture, souvenirs were presented to Professor Tang Shui Yan, Distinguished Visiting Scholar (centre), and Professor Carlos W H Lo, lecture moderator and nominator (left) by Professor Stephen H S Wong, Head of United College (right).

Professor Anthony Y H Fung, lecture moderator (left), and Professor Tang Shui Yan (right) attended a question and answer session after the talk.

Professor Tang shared his experiences and gains in studying in US at the Night Talk held on 29 March evening.

The DVS farewell dinner was held at the Shatin Hyatt Hotel on 31 March 2023.