Universities in Hong Kong

HKU staff and student associations demand answers over unfilled deputy position

  • The search process for the provost and deputy vice chancellor role at the University of Hong Kong has been on hold for more than two years
  • Professor Paul Tam Kwong-hang has been interim provost for three years
PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 7:46pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2018, 10:46pm

The uproar over the lack of progress by Hong Kong’s oldest university to properly recruit its No 2 management position has escalated with staff and student associations demanding the incumbent deputy explain his capacity in the leadership team.

The Post reported last week that the search process for the provost and deputy vice chancellor role at the University of Hong Kong had been on hold for more than two years with sources saying the situation may not change soon.

While a search was scheduled for early 2017 – after two failed attempts in 2015 and 2016 – it never took place after former vice chancellor Peter Mathieson resigned in February that year.

The turbulent process has forced HKU to appoint Professor Paul Tam Kwong-hang, the school’s vice-president from 2003 to 2015, to serve as interim provost until a candidate is found – a role he has held for three years.

Issuing a joint statement on Facebook on Monday, the university’s student union and academic staff association expressed concerns over Tam being referred to as “provost and deputy vice chancellor” instead of “interim provost and deputy vice chancellor” in official documents.

In addition, the recent removal of a job posting for the provost and deputy vice chancellor position has led to questions about whether Tam is taking on the position permanently.

The provost is the second in command in HKU, who takes over the duties of the vice chancellor when he or she is away. Tam served as acting president from February to July after Mathieson left the university, while current vice chancellor Zhang Xiang had not taken office.

A university spokesperson previously said if there were no suitable candidate in the process of searching and selecting, the procedure would be suspended and then restarted.

But the student and staff associations took issue with the lack of a concrete timetable.

Student union president Davin Wong said the university had not properly responded to questions on whether there would still be a search for a new provost.

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He also took issue with the “inappropriate” procedures, should Tam take the position permanently.

“The usual practice is for a candidate for the position to go through a global search, search and selection committees and the university’s council before a permanent appointment,” Wong said.

Both associations urged the university to begin the selection process immediately after the new appointment of council members in January next year.