FOR ambitious scholars on Hong Kong's academic ladder, the post of vice-chancellor at the University of Hong Kong is the ultimate goal.
The prestige attached to the job is one of the reasons behind the fracas concerning Professor Cheng's nomination.
Although nominally under the chancellor - a symbolic position held by the Governor - the vice-chancellor is the institute's de facto leader.
According to university statutes, the vice-chancellor is a member of every committee belonging to every body at the university - except the disciplinary committee - giving him a say in all decision-making.
The vice-chancellor also chairs the senate - the body in charge of courses, examinations, scholarships, dormitory policies and overseeing students' welfare and discipline.
The top academic is also a member of both the institute's court - equivalent to the board of directors - and its council, the body in charge of finances and properties.
In civic circles, the vice-chancellor is recognised as the voice of education.
Current incumbent Professor Wang Gungwu was an Executive Councillor and his predecessor, Dr Rayson Huang Li-sung, sat in the Legislative Council. Both were made CBEs.
The office-holder also enjoys recognition from overseas, being honoured as the head of the territory's most established university.
The prestige of the job, of course, brings with it comparable fringe benefits.
The vice-chancellor has a two-storey, detached lodge on University Road in the Mid-Levels, known as The Lodge, plus a car and chauffeur provided by the institute.
The University of Hong Kong was established in 1911, and has more than 12,000 students.
It has grown from a medical college at the start of the century to a nine-faculty institution, offering both undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
Degrees awarded by the university are recognised universally, and close links are maintained with universities abroad. Some staff have been recruited through international advertisements.