22 October 2016
Peter Mathieson says he has never regretted taking a job that some considered a hot potato. Photo: HKEJ
Peter Mathieson says he has never regretted taking a job that some considered a hot potato. Photo: HKEJ

Mathieson rates his performance as HKU leader 6 out of 10

Peter Mathieson, vice chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, has given himself a ”barely passing” grade for his performance in the job, as he has not proved himself yet, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Tuesday.

In an interview Monday with several newspapers, the medical professor from England rated himself at 6 on a 10-point scale after more than two years as HKU’s top official.

Mathieson said he has laid out a roadmap for the university’s development and has recruited excellent talent, but he still needs to work harder to bring out HKU’s potential.

Asked what he thinks of HKU council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung’s performance since he assumed the post on Jan. 1, Mathieson seemed quite satisfied, as he immediately gave Li 9 points out of 10.

Calling his relationship with Li “good”, Mathieson said he has neither interfered with HKU’s daily operations nor tried to sabotage the university, as some accused him of doing.

One should not comment on Li’s merits and demerits until he finishes his three-year term, Mathieson said.

Having been faced with multiple controversies since he took office in April 2014, including the participation of many HKU students in the Occupy movement, a long battle over the appointment of a pro vice chancellor, and students’ clashes with the council, Mathieson said he has experienced some dark times but has never regretted taking a job that some considered a hot potato.

A task force at HKU formed to review the demand by students that Hong Kong’s chief executive should not automatically be the university’s chancellor will begin meeting with stakeholders next week.

Mathieson declined to comment on the issue, nor would he say whether he supports the re-election of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

However, he said the fact that the system in which the city’s top official is ex officio the chancellor of the university was in place for a long time without any complaint implied the issue is more about Leung’s popularity than the power enjoyed by the chancellor.

Mathieson said Leung has never done anything beyond the chancellor’s powers as limited by the HKU Ordinance. 

Any restructuring of the university’s governance would be a long and complicated process, Mathieson said.

He admitted that he does not have the patience to wait for that to happen and has therefore chosen to stick with the existing system in managing HKU.

The HKU council finally appointed psychology professor Terry Au Kit-fong in late May to be the pro vice chancellor for academic staffing and resources after it rejected law professor Johannes Chan Man-mun, the candidate a search committee led by Mathieson had recommended for the post.

Mathieson said the appointment of Au was a reasonable one, as she had been acting in the position.

He said he expects HKU to look ahead now that the dust has settled.

Mathieson said management staff with different backgrounds can be complementary, and that suits his idea of leading HKU like a prime minister with a cabinet of ministers.

As for his own future after his five-year contract with HKU expires in 2019, Mathieson said it is too early to talk about whether his contract will be extended or not, but the most important thing for him is to try to deliver good results in the meantime.

[Chinese version 中文版]

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