The new head of the University of Hong Kong will have to address declining morale when he takes up the post in April, according to the leader of the institution's staff association. Association president Chan Chit-kwai said staff morale at the university had been hit hard in the past decade because of the implementation of a policy of forced retirements and the use of short-term contracts without medical or retirement benefits. Chan said he had discussed staff concerns with incoming vice chancellor Professor Peter Mathieson during an hour-long, closed-door meeting at the university on Tuesday, describing it as a "good start". "We are asking for the retirement age to be raised from its current forced requirement of 60 to 65," Chan said. City University, Lingnan University and the University of Science and Technology had already done so, he added. "There are staff who have been working on short-term contracts for 10 or 12 years with absolutely no retirement benefits. Many feel they have no security at all," Chan told the Post . The university also had the worst medical benefits packages out of all eight tertiary institutions in the city, lacking appropriate coverage for areas including physiotherapy, gynaecology and Chinese medicine, Chan said. Chan last year openly expressed disappointment over Mathieson's selection due to his perceived lack of academic standing and management experience. But Chan is now "optimistic" about the new vice chancellor. "I have hope in him but he still lacks knowledge about the territory and will need more time to get to know its traditions and history," he said. Mathieson, dean of medicine and dentistry at the University of Bristol in Britain, will become the university's first non-Chinese vice chancellor in more than a decade. He did not respond to requests for comment yesterday at the end of his four-day visit. Meanwhile, Chinese University announced yesterday that vice chancellor Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu could extend his tenure upon approval by the university council when his five-year term ends in June next year. Student union vice-president Mike Kwan Wai-hung welcomed the news and praised Sung. But he said the process of appointing vice chancellors needed more transparency.