University of Hong Kong council adopts much leaner administrative model Staff representatives at the University of Hong Kong are angered at the adoption of reforms by its council this week which they say will dilute democracy in favour of corporate-style leadership. The council decision came at the end of a two-month consultation over the proposals for governance reform submitted by a special review panel, which sought to sharpen leadership. Vice-chancellor Tsui Lap-chee is expected to lead a small team of academic managers comprising pro vice-chancellors, deans and department heads in running the university. The council and the senate will also be slashed, with council members acting as trustees instead of delegates, while office bearers in the student union and staff associations will be barred from serving on councils. The council has decided to set up a working group, to be headed by Professor Tsui, to look into the implementation of the proposals. But chairman of the Academic Staff Association, Chan Chi-wai, questioned why the reform was adopted despite opposition in questionnaires collected from 128 staff. More than half said faculty deans should be elected, rather than appointed by council. A vast majority also said department heads should either be elected or appointed by the vice-chancellor upon nomination by departments. In its submission, the association opposed the concentration of power in the hands of a few, which it said 'further insulates the vice-chancellor from frontline teachers'. 'It is also necessary to make a distinction between business concerns and academic institutions,' it added. Dr Chan, who said staff were demoralised by the new appointment system, called the barring of office bearers from the council discriminatory. 'Everyone should have the right of being chosen as members,'' he said. 'The reform should also have included a mechanism for checks and balances of powers. The new system is not democratic. Executive-led management is not necessarily appropriate for academic institutions.' The council received 19 submissions on the reform proposals. Student union president Raymond Mak Ka-chun said more university members should be included in the council, contrary to the adopted 2:1 ratio of external to university members. He also opposed the barring of office-bearers from the council. 'Having council members acting as trustees means they will not have to be accountable to any group,'' he said, adding that students should be included in the future implementation group. A Director of Audit report on universities released this week supports small councils and reliance on external members. But it pointed to the low attendance rates of external members at council meetings. The average number of external members present at HKU and Chinese University council meetings between July 2000 and November 2002 did not constitute the majority, it was reported. 'This was not in line with a good governance practice for a publicly-funded organisation that there should be a majority of independent external members in the governing body when making decisions of great importance,'' it said. Neil Rudenstine, the former president of Harvard University and one of the panel members who conducted the review, said after it delivered its report that council membership had to involve serious commitment to the running of an institution, not be treated as a mere honour to be bestowed on leading members of the community. 'In a university there is too much education, too much research and too much of the future at stake,' he told the South China Morning Post. Meanwhile, other institutions have launched governance reviews in response to the Sutherland report on higher education, which called for such exercises to ensure they are 'fit for purpose''. The review committees at both City University and the Hong Kong Institute of Education are looking into the role and mission of their institutions and making improvements in their governance and management structure.