Lessons learned: Reflections of a University President \nby William G. Bowen \nPrinceton University Press HK$200 This illuminating book written by a former president of Princeton, one of the world's top-ranking universities, demands to be read by anyone interested in good leadership, academic or otherwise, and in higher education. William G. Bowen, president of the university from 1972-88, has succeeded, through his frank and honest writing, in delineating the principles for leading a university effectively and respectably. According to Bowen, one key duty of a university president is to regard fund-raising as a rewarding exercise, but at the same time have a bottom line, know it, and guard it. Contrary to the view that fund-raising is, at best, a necessary evil, Bowen writes that he draws satisfaction from helping sponsors use their resources better than they could on their own. More importantly, he also cites examples in which a university needs to turn down certain donations with strings attached. A classic example is when a Saudi Arabian king offered a huge amount of support on the condition that an entire academic programme be named after him. Bowen's reply: 'Please understand, the university is not for sale - which is precisely why it is so strong and so worth supporting.' Bowen is a shrewd economist, but one who also understands the importance of maintaining institutional integrity. A good university president must have a clear vision for the university's development, and should not agree to sett up programmes that serve only the purpose of pleasing donors. A president should also possess good social skills, a 'human face', and the ability to unite university members. Moreover, he or she should work towards widespread acceptance of the university's governance policies by, for example, making key decision processes transparent and fostering rational dialogues, rather than taking the superficial, populist route of trying to please everybody. Yet another duty of a president is to ensure freedom of speech is neither violated nor exploited. A university 'should be the home of the critic, not the critic itself'; healthy and constructive dissent should be actively encouraged. However, a president should also help the university community understand that institutional restraint is often of long-term value. Bowen also writes that a president should have the daring to put in place good administrative structures and policies (and, of course, change bad ones): redundant meetings should be cancelled; 'good people' who bring with them alternative views should not be avoided; talent should precede experience in hiring ('people rarely get smarter but they do gain experience over time'). One might say that Bowen's principles appear to be no more than common sense. Yet, putting them into practice seems to be a lot more difficult. Readers will have no problems relating the principles above to reportage of news about universities in many places, including Hong Kong. Business pressures on universities are getting stronger and stronger, be they financial pressure on university operations, or on the vocational choices of university graduates - witness, for instance, the recent student protests in London and Italy over tuition fees and the shrinking of university endowments in the United States following the financial turmoil. Bowen is wise enough to explain that Princeton's academic settings are unique - a small population with only one faculty, very few applied schools, elite and private. Hence many of its policies may be difficult to implement in, say, public universities in the US. But the principles he writes of are too fundamental and too good to be ignored by any university administrator with a heart. Think fund-raising. Think freedom of speech. Think uniting members of a university community. Bowen's book therefore serves as an invaluable guide with many lessons to be learned, not least by university administrators in Hong Kong.