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Universities in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Baptist University looks to hire 100 of the ‘best and brightest’ professors

Move is part of plans to improve teaching and research in creative media, health and drug discovery, data analytics and artificial intelligence

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 November, 2017, 9:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 November, 2017, 11:18am

Hong Kong Baptist University has set an ambitious target to hire 100 of the “best and brightest” professors within the next five years to help transform the institution into a “leading liberal arts university” in Asia, its president said on Tuesday.

The drive to recruit 100 new academic staff, part of the university’s 10-year strategic plan, will mainly focus on strengthening teaching and research in three clusters: creative media; health and drug discovery; data analytics and artificial intelligence.

These areas include subjects such as film, graphics, visual and media arts, Chinese medicine, chemistry, microbiology, data-journalism and fintech.

HKBU’s president and vice-chancellor Roland Chin Tai-hong said the plan was not about chasing world rankings.

“We are now at a turning point where we aim to become a leading, research-led, liberal arts university in Asia for the world,” Chin said.

“We’re not going after [university] rankings, that isn’t about education … We want to hire the best and brightest professors from around the world to come and teach and do research here,” he said.

The school, one of the city’s eight publicly-funded institutions, currently employs around 1,000 teaching staff, 360 of whom are academic staff such as assistant, associate and chair professors.

Chin would not reveal details of their budget, but said that it had been approved by the university’s council.

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According to Chin, the annual salary of an assistant professor is around HK$1.5 million, while more senior positions would pay HK$2 million to HK$3 million a year. Hiring 100 assistant professors, the lowest rank of staff the university would hire in this scheme, would cost the university at least HK$150 million, according to a Post estimate.

Chin said the current problem the 61-year-old institution faced was not having enough staff to expand into new areas.

“For example, if the music department and film academy wanted to collaborate together to create a new film soundtrack programme, we would need to hire more people to do more of such cross-disciplinary work,” he said.

Chin stressed that the addition of 100 new staff would not mean cutting back on resources to other areas, or laying off teachers.

But Dr Benson Wong Wai-kwok, chairman of the university’s staff union, said there were still a number of concerns the school had failed to address.

“We hear them say that they would not neglect other areas that do not belong in those three clusters. But we can foresee that if any teachers’ research projects are not in those three clusters, the priority for funding would be quite low. There would be fewer opportunities for these staff to get resources and funding,” Wong said.

Wong said the university had also faced difficulties recruiting professors from overseas for a number of years, having to promote staff internally, or poach them from other local universities.

“The question they have to ask is how attractive is HKBU among the eight publicly funded universities that people would choose to come here?” Wong said.

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He said that a number of senior professionals in the industry had declined offers due to the excessive amount of administrative work and committees they would have to sit on.

Other measures in their 10-year strategic plan include boosting the rate of international student enrolment from 1 per cent of all student enrolments to 10 per cent in the next five years. The school will also carry out two campus development projects – a HK$4 billion revamp of its old Ho Sin Hang campus and a new hostel for 1,700 students costing HK$1.8 billion.

HKBU was the only local institution to go down in the latest annual edition of the World Universities Ranking this year that rates 1,000 universities globally. It dropped from the 351-400 range to the 401-500 range, according to London-based Times Higher Education, a publication specialising in education. The University of Hong Kong, placed 40th, is the city’s highest ranked institution on the list.

In another ranking, HKBU placed 299th out of 959 universities globally in QS World University Rankings, conducted by British education information firm Quacquarelli Symonds.