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.