Questions asked over allowance used to buy $13m luxury Kowloon Tong flat Academics and legislators have hit out at high salaries earned by university heads, especially that of Polytechnic University president Poon Chung-kwong, who receives a monthly allowance of $177,000 on top of his salary of $181,700, according to the Audit Commission report. Professors Tsui Lap-chee and Ambrose King Yeo-chee, vice-chancellors of the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong, are paid within salary bands of $210,000 to $230,000 a month. Their basic wage, according to the government's directorate pay scale, should be $181,700. The difference comprises negotiated cash top-ups. Paul Chu Ching-wu, president of the University of Science and Technology, has his monthly pay topped up by $70,000 to $250,000. Legislator Wong Wang-fat criticised the practice of topping up already high salaries. 'The prestige of a vice-chancellor's job is already a reward. The sector could become corrupt if staff with connections can get higher salaries,' he said. Professor Poon has his salary topped-up by $177,000 - $39,000 a month to bring it to the same level as HKU and CUHK wages and $138,000 in housing and leave benefits. PolyU council chairman Sir Gordon Wu Ying-sheung said a seven-member council committee approved the package. Professor Poon purchased a luxury flat in Kowloon Tong for $13 million several years ago and his allowance covers his mortgage payments. He said this week that the council's decision to grant the allowance meant he could keep the apartment after he retired. Sir Gordon said it was more economical to pay Professor Poon's allowance than to renovate and pay for the monthly expenses of keeping a president's lodge. But chairman of PolyU Staff Association, Chan Chun-wah, said: 'It sounds odd that the university has added to the salary specified by the civil service pay scale. It is also questionable whether extra money from the university, whether it is directly from the government or not, should have been used this way.'' Cheung Man-kwong, legislator representing the education sector, said: 'You need to pay internationally-acclaimed academics more to help raise the profile of and promote the internationalisation of a university, but that does not mean all universities should top up their chiefs' salaries. Why should Professor Poon, considering his academic standing, be paid the same as those at HKU or CUHK?'' President of PolyU's student union, Ray Or Pok-man, said the council of the university should review Professor Poon's salary after July, when the government move to de-link university staff salaries from the civil service takes effect. Fears have been raised that with the de-linking and heavy cuts in government funding for the sector, the already big difference between top brass and junior university staff salaries could widen further. 'Those at the top will retain their fat salaries while those in junior ranks will have their wages slashed. University funding has been on the decline for years and yet the institutions still choose to top-up their heads' salaries,'' said Chan Chi-wai, vice-chairman of the Federation of Higher Education Staff Associations. Chan King-ming, a CUHK associate professor, said: 'With salaries set so unfairly, de-linking could lead to staff disputes over pay,' and referring to Professor Poon's allowance, he asked: 'Why should he be allowed to own the flat and keep it after retirement?'' The annual income of the heads of HKU and CUHK are similar to that of the president of London's Imperial College, which was HK$2,730,403 last year, but just ahead of the annual income of the chief of the University of California at Berkeley ($2,424,671). With the exception of PolyU, all local universities provide lodgings for their chiefs, as do most in the US. The salaries of the chiefs of HKU, CUHK, HKUST, PolyU and City University, minus any top-ups, are currently set at the civil service D8 level, the same as those of permanent secretaries, whereas the salary of Baptist University's president is set at D7, which is $176,205. Salaries of the head of Lingnan University and the Hong Kong Institute of Education are at D6 - $163,205. Of the three, only Professor Ng Ching-fai, head of HKBU, has a monthly cash allowance of $5,000, to pay his domestic helper, according to the institution.