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  • Nov 28, 2014
  • Updated: 7:03pm
NewsHong Kong

HKU could get first expat vice-chancellor in more than a decade

Peter Mathieson earned praise from committee selecting new vice-chancellor and would be first expatriate to get job in over a decade

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 01 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 8:40am

The University of Hong Kong may soon have its first expatriate vice-chancellor in a decade.

Professor Peter William Mathieson - currently dean of medicine and dentistry at the University of Bristol - has been recommended by an 11-member selection committee to succeed Professor Tsui Lap-chee.

Mathieson told the Post that he was honoured and excited to be a candidate for the post.

"If I am appointed, I will do my utmost, together with the university community, to take the university to new heights," he said.

Tsui quit as head of the city's oldest university amid controversy over heavy-handed security arrangements during the visit of then Vice-Premier Li Keqiang in August 2011 that overshadowed the university's centenary celebrations.

If approved by the university council Mathieson, 54, would become the university's 15th vice-chancellor and the first non-Chinese since Professor William Ian Rees Davies, who headed the 102-year-old institution from 2000 to 2002.

Mathieson has been active in teaching and medical research with his main clinical interest lying in autoimmune renal diseases.

Dr Leong Che-hung, chairman of the selection committee, said that candidates' nationalities were never part of their considerations.

"HKU is an international university; we just want to choose the best person for the job," he said. "Mathieson has experience heading a big faculty and carrying out school reform. I am sure he could take the helm and lead HKU to the next stage."

HKU Students' Union president Laurence Tang Yat-long, another committee member, said Mathieson was the best of the candidates.

During the interview process the committee had asked Mathieson to comment on core values including freedom of speech and academic research, and members had found his answers "satisfactory", Tang said.

He hoped the new vice-chancellor would firmly defend the university's core values.

"A vice-chancellor doesn't just need academic achievement, but also great communication, management and fundraising skills," Tang said.

Tsui apologised to students and alumni at least four times after three students were detained by police during Li's visit to the Pok Fu Lam campus.

A review committee subsequently found that police used "unjustifiable" and "unreasonable" force to contain some student protesters.


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This article is now closed to comments

As a HKU graduate, I am glad to see the new appointment of the vice chancellor and wish him every success in the future
Please come save our school! Too much wrong headed thinking on the part of administrators over the last decade.
Fantastic news to have Professor Peter William Mathieson. Welcome aboard Peter and best of luck!
But even the current VC is not a Chinese national.
Rubbish. Professor Tsui Lap Chee is not Chinese?
Well, " first non-Chinese since Professor William Ian Rees Davies, who headed the 102-year-old institution from 2000 to 2002." is getting on for 14 years, kinda! Anyway, not to split too many hairs, you do know that article titles are quite often incorrect in the SCMP these days - since they are not written by the reporters but an editor and proof-reading is a dying occupation.
I do take exception to your statement that it is necessary or desirable to have "a Chinese national VC". HK is an international city and welcomes non-Chinese who contribute significantly in the education sector. The selection process appears fair and reasonable - all candidates performed on a level playing field - why bring ethnicity into the equation ? I think you still have to prove your point.
Actually, after the handover in 1997 expats have found it increasingly difficult to be appointed/elevated to prime positions and this is especially so in the civil service. So its refreshing to see an appointment made simply on merit. What I find amusing though is that the panel only found the comments from Mr. Mathieson on core values(freedom of speech) 'satisfactory'. Surely they could have used a better word.
Professor Mathieson - any relation to Jardine Mathieson? - has the perfect name for a successful Hong Kong career. I wish him good luck, it will not be an easy job.
The Internet has this to say about Jardine Mathieson:
"Jardine Matheson’s early profits were based on the enforced importation of Indian opium into China. When the Chinese emperor tried to ban the trade, the company called on Britain to compel China to accept the drug, leading in 1840 to two Opium Wars."
So, a perfect name for working in HK.
I hope the public and HKU students who had created such furore at the University's centenary celebrations leading to the departure of the existing Chinese national Vice-Chancellor, are happy now. It is not easy to find a Chinese national academic who is distinguished both academically and in administration, and to be able to hold the esteem of a University population and in his/her discipline internationally. Professor Mathieson may be an excellent appointee, but in the present day when HK is officially Chinese, it would have been good to have a Chinese national VC in its flagship University, as it did for the last forty years, particularly when the reason for Professor Tsui's departure was not due to a failing in his performance.



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