CityU recruitment angers dismissed staff
Linda Yeung and Gary Cheung
City University's School of Law is recruiting top Chinese law experts from overseas while the fate of eight lecturers who were told to leave by June remains unknown.
The recruitment drive, expected to run until March, is part of the school's attempt to strengthen its Chinese law training. This follows the revamping of its Master of Laws (LLM) programme which in the next academic year will offer students five streams of specialisation and a wider choice of Chinese law electives.
The specialisations will include World Trade Organisation and law, Chinese and comparative law, international business law, common law and a general stream.
Dean of the school, Professor Mike McConville, told a forum at CityU this week that in the coming academic year students could expect more 'exciting' programmes as competitive as those offered by the University of Hong Kong's law faculty.
'We will continue to focus on regional issues, including the implications of China's accession to the WTO,' he said.
But the school is meanwhile facing the challenge of widespread discontent from staff and students who blame the lecturers' dismissals on racial discrimination.
Dr McConville, who took up the dean's position in August, has declined to be interviewed on the dismissal row.
The group, who were told in November that their contracts would not be renewed in June, are also Chinese law experts.
Support for them has come from the Federation of Higher Education Staff Associations, representing academic staff from most tertiary institutions.
Chairman Chan Chi-wai said the decisions on who should go, made by the school's staff committee, were unfair because none of the four committee members understood Chinese. Their decisions were later approved by a university review committee.
Associate professor John Mo Shijian, who had his contract extended for one year, criticised the committee for not making a detailed assessment on the staff affected.
'It did not give the rationale of why our contracts were not renewed and made no mention of our performance in the appraisal report,' he said.
Associate professor Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who had taught at the school for 12 years, said she had not seen dismissals on such a scale in other departments before.
Meanwhile, the law school is planning to increase its Global Gateway programme, which allows students to go on exchange studies in overseas legal education institutions. The move will also bring law faculty staff in on exchanges from mainland universities. CityU's LLM programme lasts for one year and is usually taken by working adults.
Following the recommendations in a consultants' report, the Legal Education Review, released last year, it will also incorporate more skills training in the coming year. China's accession to the WTO and the increasing importance of the Asian economy also prompted the restructuring of the programme.