• Sat
  • Apr 19, 2014
  • Updated: 2:52pm
NewsHong Kong

Peter Mathieson confirmed as new head of HKU

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 October, 2013, 10:35am
UPDATED : Saturday, 05 October, 2013, 8:24am


  • Yes: 63%
  • No: 37%
5 Oct 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 303

The University of Hong Kong officially appointed its first expatriate chief in a decade yesterday despite reservations expressed by students, alumni and at least four senior academics, one of whom called him "ignorant and incapable".

Professor Peter Mathieson of Britain, the only candidate shortlisted, received the "unanimous" blessing of HKU's governing council. Council chairman Dr Leong Che-hung acknowledged there were dissenting voices and said: "No one can be perfect." He said Mathieson admitted lacking understanding of China and Hong Kong but would "try his best to make up for that".

Leong said Mathieson was a suitable candidate since he met the five selection criteria: a track record of excellent academic standing, integrity, vision, management capability and communication skills. Both men thanked the outgoing vice chancellor, Professor Tsui Lap-chee, for his 11 years of service. Tsui's term expires in February; it is not clear when Mathieson will take office.

Mathieson's day started with separate meetings with about 300 members of the university's staff, students and alumni, who had dozens of questions for the British scholar, previously dean of the University of Bristol's medicine and dentistry faculty.

In a session with the alumni, Mathieson suggested that his vision for HKU was that the 102-year-old institution should seek to maximise its potential research achievements.

"I think the excellence of the staff, the students and the alumni can lead the university to even greater heights," Mathieson said.

Responding to criticism about his lack of experience in Hong Kong and China, Mathieson said he saw this as an advantage because he would be able to "start afresh with no predefined standpoint or baggage".

Mathieson appeared cautious when asked his view of the Occupy Central campaign for democracy, saying merely that he respected both freedom of speech and the law. He also declined to weigh into the debate about universal suffrage.

On Thursday, Mathieson's mission statement, which said he would do his best "to assist Uganda", was questioned by journalism professor Chan Yuen-ying as appearing to indicate he had applied for another job.

Mathieson said this was not true - he had 14 years' experience in Uganda and was committed to helping the country.

Professor Lo Chung-mau, head of surgery and a selection committee member, described Mathieson as "ignorant and incapable", while Professor Enoch Young, director emeritus of HKU's school of professional and continuing education, also expressed reservations.

Chan remained unimpressed by the Briton after the meeting, and former pro-vice chancellor Professor Cheng Kai-ming said Mathieson lacked clear vision. "He might be a good administrator ... But that would be like just getting the job done. A university shouldn't be like that," Cheng said. Dean of science Professor Sun Kwok suggested Mathieson should be supported.

A source familiar with the operations of HKU said Mathieson was likely to be paid HK$3 million to HK$4 million a year, with medical and dental insurance, a car and a residence.




This article is now closed to comments

Emphatically, I sympathize with your view that saboteurs and supercilious expats are living in our midst. When a fine gentleman like Mr. Tung Chee Hwa or a meritocratic professional like Professor Tsui Lap Chee could be so endlessly abused by mindless Democracy cultists and populist mobs, one wonders whether Hong Kong Chinese still have a civilized soul.
Remember these malicious Hong Kongers are compatriots too by their birthright. Nothing will change that. And the Chinese character for tolerance, as my Confucian father constantly reminded me in childhood, is a knife in the heart.
Perhaps a little self-deprecatory humor and mockery of the ignorant are the only therapeutic tools available when confronted by Democracy cultists like Anson Chan or Martin Lee. Since reciprocating in kind could only make matters worse, my favorite response to hateful bananas with poor English skills is "two Wongs don't make a White."
Absolutely agree with thung01. Not sure why many commentators are dumping on Mathieson, since no one really seems to know much about him. But if he is as inadequate for the job as some people seem to suggest, then how inadequate is the selection committee that short-listed and hired him?
Professor Lo was on said committee, and evidently didn't think much of the guy, as is his prerogative. Unfortunately, I presume he backed a losing horse in this race. It would be interesting to see who applied and wasn't chosen. If other objectively more worthy candidates were overlooked, I can understand professor Lo's frustration. However, if Mathieson was the less ignorant and least incapable of all the applicants, then he'd probably be better served bemoaning the state of HKU and her inability to attract worthy candidates.
Opinions expressed here show why populist democracy is the worst government for immature pluralistic societies like HK. To a large extent, equal weights given to academic voices in the choice of a vice chancellor are parallel to poor choice for paramount leader of a country by one-man-one-vote.
I have a nodding acquaintance with Professor Chan, whom I consider to be a respectable and competent academic. Though her point about dated resume is correct, she doesn’t take into consideration the total requirements deficiency for a university president – at least this is the impression I derived from this report.
I would sign the consent form in a heartbeat to be operated on by Professor Lo. But his narrow perspective and opinionated comments are inappropriate. We are choosing a head with wide range of skills, not the head of oncology or surgery.
In the past, we have picked named scientists to run HK universities. Bad choices in some cases. Einstein and Paul Dirac are both my superheroes and first among equals. Yet they would likely make worst department heads, let alone head of a university. As usual, critical comments show Chinese brand name worship at work here. Even when hiring specialists, we tend to hire those already past their creative prime.
The selection committee has spoken. Let us welcome this new head with open arms and lend him our exemplary Chinese hospitality and cooperative spirit.
Fair disclosure: I know absolutely nothing about Mr. Mathieson.
What 'exemplary Chinese hospitality and cooperative spirit'? Didn't know we had one.
Other appointed officers have been forcibly removed by popular opinion too, Tung Chee Hwa, Tsui Lap Chee, and CT Leung though formally appointed, is not having an easy time. Why is Mathieson sacrosanct?
In calling Mathieson 'ignorant and incapable', Prof. Lo is in effect also calling HKU's governing council and selection panel 'ignorant and incapable', for failing to notice his ignorance and incapability and thinking him fit to be the next president.
If you wish to say so. Prof Lo doesn't agree with the appointment. Period.
Did Lo Chung-mau or Chan Yuen-ying apply for the job?
This looks like typical bitchy academic backbiting. Shame on them.
Did you apply for the post? If you can comment, why can't they? They would know how a university functions. Do you?
So, we have HKU professors the likes of Chan and Lo, who brazenly backstabs and belittle their future boss's credentials and character without any qualms.
Is this what academic integrity is all about? If this is how professors behave, what could we expect from their students? How could we trust students of such mindsets in our offices? How well do you yourself measure up, Ms Chan? What is your political agenda?
If Wang Gungwu had taken up his job now, he would be greeted with the same treatment, since he is not a Hongkonger!!!
I say welcome onboard, Prof Mathieson!!
Academic integrity has nothing to do with people expressing a view. In the views of a number of academics, Mathieson is NOT good enough.
Welcome and congrats to Professor Mathieson.
Unless you know his qualities personally, this sounds sycophantic.
He may not expect so many political tussles in HK. Had he read the story about the exit of the chief of West Kowloon Arts Hub, who came from Britain and resigned on "health problem" shortly after starting his job? Follow his footsteps? Even before Mathieson is on his seat, he was attacked by some students for not stating explicitly the support of the Occupy Central movement. "On my side and say yes to my view, or you are a devil". He will be beset by this "HongKong-style democracy".
The students caused the departure of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor. He would be wise to know how things operate here.
Many "Chinese" scholars after comparing
what they're doing and the probabilities of HKU
rejected the offer to be considered for the post
Mathieson thus became the only shortlisted candidate
There's every reason that Prof Lo's comment
rightly or wrongly, is his professional opinion
nothing to do jealousy and racism
Now that Mathieson is selected
and the selection committee included some trustworthy members
let's wish him well and give him a chance
I could say that about CY Leung too. Now that he's been appointed, let's wish him well and give him a chance. But people aren't either.
"Professor Lo Chung-mau, head of surgery and a selection committee member, described Mathieson as "ignorant and incapable" "
Professional jealousy? Racism? Who were the other applicants?
What is your problem? Professor Lo who was a member of the selection committee, did not think Mathieson good enough. Why should that be considered 'professional jealousy, and racism'? Are the selection committee members to rubber-stamp all recommendations? Is that how you function, rubber-stamping?
You are the one with the problem: many comments against Prof. Mathieson are by people who are ignorant of his history and qualifications and based upon the fact he is not Chinese and/or not from Hong Kong. By definition they are racist. You are typical of many HKers who are in denial about your petty self conceit, inflated opinions of yourselves and racist attitudes.
It is wholly unprofessional for members of a selection committee to publicly smear the Vice Chancellor before he even takes up office. There is clearly some private agenda here. They are clearly trying to wreck his chances at doing the job effectively. I wonder if they know what integrity and manliness are?
I have read his cv., so I am not 'ignorant of his history and qualifications'. Have you? We should be glad to know that there were disagreements within the selection committee, and that there appears to be several academic staff members who disapproved. This is after all a public-funded position. It takes 'integrity and manliness' to voice opinions against the official line. Why are you just denigrating the objectors who are in the university business while you are not, and still believe you know better when you dont even know Mathieson's career details?
Those who know Prof Lo's intelligence, diligence and professionalism
will laugh at simpleton's ignorant utterance about jealousy and racism
For the benefit of slow and insular thinkers
could Prof Lo have a higher standard
and idealistically wish to have someone better?
I don't see what all the fuss is about. Would appointing someone who is from HK or who knows more about HK and China or Asia guarantee anything better? Any trivial mistake made, such as receiving a Chinese leader too warmly we have seen could be fatal and everything blown out of proportion. The adverse publicity and all the personal attacks in the press today is going to cause the continual downfall in ranking of the HKU. It is the reason of its own downfall - Intolerance, prejudice, lack of sensitivity.
HKU's downfall does not come from these comments. They come when the leaders are incompetent.
A hint of xenophobia in some of the comments from vested interest at HKU. Personally I am disinclined to employ HKU graduates. Although I've met exceptions, modern HKU graduates tend to have an overinflated opinion of themselves, poor English and sense of entitlement.
Perhaps Professor Mathieson really wanted a job in Uganda. Uganda didn't want him, but HKU does. Is this a sign of its slipping standards?
You really are sign of the badly slipping standards of English in HK. Try reading the article again.
Is your English any better?
daily, the thing is that world class universities such as HKU don't make decisions based on race. This is the way that it should be. Chinese should have equal opportunities to head up universities in the UK, US and other countries and will I am sure in the future, but the decision will not be based on their race. Personally I am not sure that Mathieson is qualified or the best candidate.
No-one can be sure about any appointee, but he is clearly qualified or he would not have got the job. Give the man a chance.
sudo rm -f cy
@dclam: In contrast, I believe China can only drag Hong Kong's universities down. Remember the Hanxin chip fraud, involving a dean at Jiaotong University? Between plagiarism, fake data, ghostwriting, gift authorship, and more, I can't see how linking Hong Kong universities' reputation to China is a good thing.
With this appointment, HKU will continue its retreat from engaging the mainland and lose its relevance in China. That is a shame, but it seems that the glory days are over for HKU.
I can't believe that this guy is the only candidate out of so many possible professor's in HK.....the guy has never been associated with HK nor China, so whoever nominated him, must have been bribed or have rocks in his/her brain............let's be realistic.....does HKU really need a foreigner expat to head them...........the guy looks like an idiot.
You are an ignorant, parochial racist. The article does not say he was the only candidate. He was the only one shortlisted. Yes, HK does need "foreigners'" because standards have slipped so far in the hands of conceited people like you with over-inflated opinions of yourselves.
Like you too?
Like you too?
You are describing yourself. So the previous correspondent was responsible for our slipping standards. And 'foreigners' will save us. Yes?
You know for a fact that all 'foreigners' will be good for HK?
"In Mathieson's mission statement, he said he would “do my best to assist Uganda and other parts of developing world.” Professor Chan Yuen-ying, director of HKU's journalism centre, wrote in a blog published Thursday afternoon that the reference seemed to indicate Mathieson had applied for a job in Uganda and forgot to amend the statement for his present bid."
LOL. Professor Chan was right about that. Total sloppiness. Maybe Mathieson can also take a moment to introduce that strange stripy tie he was wearing in the picture.
That's actually totally ridiculous. It was clear from his CV that he does pro bono work in Uganda and is committed to it. Exactly the sort of social commitment you want from a university leader. If anyone at HKU thinks they are competing with Uganda for staff, the institution is in trouble.
Maybe he still pledges support for Uganda above HK. Maybe he will ship Ugandan students to HKU. What fun. Then we don't have campuses flooded with Putonghua speakers as some correspondents have pointed out, rightly or wrongly.


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