Chief keen for another term to lead from behind

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 April, 2006, 12:00am

Professor Tsui Lap-chee would like to lead the University of Hong Kong for another term when his contract expires in a year.

The vice-chancellor said the university's council was discussing a new contract with him. 'If the council wants me to renew the contract, I will. We are discussing it,' he said.

The geneticist was appointed vice-chancellor in May 2002.

After nearly four years as vice-chancellor, Professor Tsui views his role as to 'assist the university's development from behind'.

'There are academic freedoms and professors have their own research directions; as a vice-chancellor, I aim to assist or to promote, which is very different from the situation in the commercial world that the CEO leads.'

He sees the development of a university as a ship moving on the sea. 'It takes patience to see the result. I think the ship is moving forward and everyone agrees it is going in the right direction. I feel I can contribute to it and I am happy.'

Professor Tsui also speaks highly of his students and rejects the general perception that undergraduates now are not as competitive as those of previous generations.

'There are generation gaps between employers and students,' he said. 'Maybe employers think there are certain skills that students ought to have, but the school has so many things to teach and what the employers think important may not be most important in school.

'There are criticisms about language and communication skills. If the problem is on language, I'm sure the students can catch up quickly. And on communication skills, students speak a different language from adults. They ... can catch up quickly. If they lack anything, it is confidence.'

His predecessor, Professor Cheng Yiu-chung, was forced back into research in September 2000 after he was alleged to have stopped the university from conducting popularity polls on then chief executive Tung Chee-hwa.

Professor Tsui captured world attention with his breakthrough research into cystic fibrosis. In 1989, he led researchers at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Michigan in isolating the defective gene responsible for the condition and defining the main mutation.