Ageing professors fight retirement

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

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A shortage of professors to teach the new four-year university curriculum provides a powerful argument for raising the compulsory retirement age, academics say.

Universities have said they needed more than 1,000 professors to cope with the increased student numbers brought on by the new 3+3+4 system that starts next year.

Yet a 2008 survey by the Polytechnic University staff association calculated that 167 of its academic staff would reach retirement age by 2014.

'We need double the number of staff taking care of the double the number of students that will arrive in 2012,'' Baptist University staff association president Dr Mark Li Kin-yin said.

'In the short-term we should make use of the faculty staff and the administrative staff who have reached 60.'

Forced retirement at 60 is also out of line with global trends. In the US, Britain and Australia there is no mandatory retirement age for professors.

Three of the city's nine universities have already raised the mandatory retirement age for staff to 65.

'Sixty-five is a more suitable age for retirement because people are still energetic, productive and can still contribute to knowledge building' says Fung Wai Wah, a staff association officer at City University, which raised the limit in 1989.

Hong Kong University associate professor Dr Sam Winter, who at 58 is nearing mandatory retirement, described the policy as 'ageist'.

'Sixty is the new forty', he said. 'You wouldn't expect to be out of a job because you got married, fell pregnant, came out as homosexual, or turned 60.'

Age discrimination in the workplace is a growing problem for the city's ageing population, which does not have any legislation to protect it.

When asked about the mandatory retirement age for professors, an Equal Opportunities Commission spokesman said there was 'currently no ordinance in this area'. 'However, the policy and research committee of the EOC has identified age discrimination as a subject to study,' the spokesman said.

13.5%

The percentage of people in Hong Kong who are aged 65 or over

- Singapore: 9.2%

- United States: 13.1%

- Worldwide: 7.9%