Universities should hire academics based on their expertise without regard to their nationality or birthplace, the head of a tertiary education institution in Hong Kong has suggested in the wake of the controversial appointment of two mainland Chinese professors at the city’s top university.
Knowledge and leadership skills were among the main criteria in deciding whether to recruit teachers, said the president of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Professor Wei Shyy, on Thursday. The veteran aerospace engineer was born in Taiwan but is a United States national.
“Everybody has one’s own background, we cannot control where we grew up, that’s past history,” Shyy said. “We should [instead] look at what one [would] say [and] what one would do.”
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The University of Hong Kong confirmed the appointments of Max Shen Zuojun and Gong Peng to senior management roles on Tuesday. Both are professors at the University of California, Berkeley and hold positions at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Some students, staff and alumni objected to giving mainland academics vice-presidential roles amid wider fears over the central government’s increasing influence in Hong Kong and a crackdown on dissent.
Shen was listed as a Communist Party member on Tsinghua’s website, but the reference was later removed. He has denied being a party member, saying he was mistakenly listed as one on the website, while university management was also satisfied with his clarification. The Post understands he told the HKU council that approved his appointment he was now a US citizen.
Shyy said categorising people by merely looking at their birthplace was “too narrow”.
“Many people consider – even to this day – I’m from Taiwan, never mind that I left Taiwan more than 40 years ago,” he said. “My sister, brother live in Taiwan, my parents died there. I was born in Taiwan, but please, let’s not define people that way.”
Shyy made the remarks at a media briefing introducing HKUST’s campus in Guangzhou in Guangdong province. The addition is expected to eventually have about 4,000 students and 400 staff within five or six years after construction ends in September 2022.
The first batch of staff at our Guangzhou campus must be able to think globally
Wei Shyy, president of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Although the president of the Guangzhou campus must be a Chinese national under mainland regulations, there were no restrictions regarding the nationalities of other senior management members, including the provost and vice-presidents, he said.
One goal of the university is to integrate academic development of both campuses, and towards that end, it hopes the first batch of staff in Guangzhou would have teaching experience gained at its Hong Kong arm, according to Shyy.
The acting deans of the four schools at the Guangzhou branch were all professors now at the Hong Kong campus.
“The first batch of staff at our Guangzhou campus must be able to think globally,” Shyy said. “They should be accomplished in their fields of research, academics, leadership and teaching.”
The construction and operating costs for the new facility were subsidised by the municipal government, while the Hong Kong campus was supported by the local government’s University Grants Committee.
More than 200 postgraduate students from Hong Kong, mainland China and overseas were currently enrolled in a pilot scheme involving the new campus. Doctoral students whose programmes take four years will move to Guangzhou when the campus opens.
Earlier this month, Chinese President Xi Jinping encouraged Hong Kong youth to go to the mainland in the Greater Bay Area to study and work, but surveys have found most young people are not interested in relocating over the border.
Shyy said the Guangzhou campus could provide opportunities for Hong Kong youth to explore opportunities on the mainland and get first-hand experience, while the city could also benefit from collaborating with the mainland in areas such as science and engineering.
This article Hire academics based on qualifications, not birthplace, says president of Hong Kong university first appeared on South China Morning Post