HKU deans warn council about academic freedom, autonomy

July 31, 2015 11:22
HKU students hold placards demanding academic freedom before a council meeting ended in chaos Tuesday. Photo: HKEJ

A group of senior academics is warning the University of Hong Kong to abide by the principles of academic freedom and autonomy in an unprecedented challenge to its governing council over delays in the appointment of a key official.

The group, consisting of 10 deans of the university faculty, said such principles are protected by Article 137 of the Basic Law, Hong Kong's mini constitution.

These apply to all aspects of the decision-making process, especially senior appointments, they said in a joint statement cited by Ming Pao Daily.

The statement came after a dozen students disrupted a meeting on Tuesday when the university council voted to reaffirm an earlier decision to delay naming a pro vice chancellor until after a deputy vice chancellor has been appointed.

The deans urged all parties to put the university's interests first and redouble efforts toward consensus.

Council chairman Leong Che-hung welcomed the statement, saying senior academics and administrators of the university share the same goal of maintaining academic freedom and autonomy.

An unnamed senior professor said the deans are a powerful group that can influence decisions by the council.

In recent years, they have successfully lobbied against funding cuts, he said.

However, he said their statement is not a show of support for vice chancellor Peter Mathieson who is opposed to any more delays in the appointment of a vice pro chancellor.

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