Universities cannot progress until nepotism is weeded out

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2007, 12:00am

I am a former member of the standing committee on language education and research and refer to the article by executive councillor Anthony Cheung Bing-leung ('Smart power', October 29).

Hoping Hong Kong can be developed into a regional education hub, is wishful thinking, thanks to the flawed admissions policy of our tertiary institutions. This is especially the case when it comes to postgraduate courses.

All applicants at all local universities are required to get referees and this is a major flaw in the application process, because it encourages nepotism. For example, graduates of University A will have difficulty being accepted by University B for a higher degree such as a masters or PhD if they fail to find a strong referee in the second university. Sometimes, even graduates wanting to do a higher degree in the same university are deprived of any chance - assuming all candidates have similar academic results - if they have not helped any of their professors to do research study when they were undergraduates, or they fail to get any of their professors to be their referees.

Admittedly, professors cannot be referees for all applicants, because of the workload involved. Given the unequal system of selection, it is difficult for our universities to meet the basic domestic needs, let alone cater for overseas talent, as suggested by Mr Cheung.

What is more, a PhD thesis is hypothetical and referees may have difficulty understanding it. Also, a thesis may be controversial and fail to attract a referee. An excellent example is Albert Einstein, whose theories disproved the beliefs of the top academics at the time, which led to him being rejected by them. How can we attract latter-day Einsteins if they fail to find a professor to act as a referee?

If our chief executive genuinely hopes to develop Hong Kong as an education hub and to bridge the gap between rich and poor, he should consider scrapping the referee system that only favours those with good family backgrounds or a strong academic network. We must eradicate nepotism to get rid of the inequality in our universities.

Kendra Ip, Hung Hom