Professors want to work past age of 60

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 23 May, 2011, 12:00am


Professors and staff associations at four leading universities are calling for senior management to end the 'ageist policy' of forced retirement at 60.

Staff at the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University, Polytechnic University and Baptist University want their institutions to follow the lead of three other universities, where retirement has been raised to 65.

'This ageist policy is leaving a nasty taste' says Dr Sam Winter, an HKU associate professor.

City University, Lingnan University and the University of Science and Technology already have a retirement age of 65.

Professors at government-funded universities with a retirement age of 60 can ask for a contract extension, but staff say the process is arduous and often results in substantial pay cuts or changes in titles and duties.

The exact details of an extended contract are 'not a case of a negotiation - it is a decision', said an associate professor at HKU who recently went through the procedure.

'I asked for a three-year extension and I was given a one-year extension and my status was changed to teaching fellow,' the professor said.

A former HKU professor, who had been earning HK$104,000 a month, was offered only HK$74,000 on extension.

'I decided that this was just due to the uncaring indifference of HKU to its staff,' the professor said.

A PolyU professor told a similar story.

'After I turned 60 in 2007, I got an entirely different contract. Before my retirement I got a salary of HK$75,000 a month; now it is half of that and my title has a 'visiting' prefix.'

The staff association had written to management asking for a higher retirement age but the professor said it was like 'talking to a brick wall'.

The association has been asking for an extension of the retirement age since 2008, when it presented senior management with a survey of 492 members.

Association chairman Dr Joseph Lee Heung-wing said the request was ignored even though 'we found that 76 per cent of academic staff, when given the choice, picked 65 as the ideal retirement age'.

Anthony Kwok Wai-leung, president of the staff association at Chinese University, says it has made a similar request.

'People are getting older and healthier, and should have the option to extend their working limits.'

This is especially true in Hong Kong, a city that has a life expectancy of 82.2 years, the second-highest in the world.

Baptist University staff association chairman Dr Mark Li Kin-yin said he had spoken to the dean about a higher retirement age.

He said academic staff should be allowed to choose to work to 65 'because they are not firefighters, they do not have to lift boxes or do physical exercise. Their trade is their mind and their wisdom'.

HKU staff association president Stephen Chan Chit-kwai said the association had written to senior management to ask for the retirement age of all staff to be increased to 65.

A Chinese University spokesman said that 'terms and salary will not be renegotiated' for a contract extension for professors.

Representatives of the other three universities said any such changes depended on budget constraints, and would not happen in all cases.


The proportion of tenured faculty at Yale who are 70 or older

- Yale University's mandatory retirement age was 70 until 1993