Is a doctorate degree necessary for a pro vice chancellor?

October 02, 2015 13:38
Former HKU law dean Johannes Chan was said to have been rejected because he doesn't have a doctorate degree. But Chi’en Mu (inset), one of China's greatest historians and philosophers, only finished junior high school. Photos: HKEJ, CUHK

Is a doctoral degree necessary for the post of university pro vice chancellor?

The question arose after the governing council of the University of Hong Kong voted on Tuesday night to reject the search committee's recommendation to appoint former law dean Johannes Chan Man-mun pro vice chancellor for academic staffing and resources.

Billy Fung Jing-en, president of the HKU Students’ Union and a council member, told media that during the deliberations, council member Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said that Chan had no doctoral degree and therefore was not qualified to be a pro vice chancellor.

Fung quoted Li as saying that Chan could have been appointed dean of law just because he was a nice guy.

Going by Li's stated reason for turning down Chan suggests that his being the only “honorary senior barrister” in Hong Kong is still not enough to qualify him for the post.

Chinese University professor Simon Shen Xu-hui, who specializes in international relations, indicated in a Facebook post that it is ridiculous to use a doctoral degree as a requirement for the post.

Shen cited the case of Chi’en Mu, who was considered one of the greatest historians and philosophers of China in the 20th century.

In 1949, he co-founded New Asia College, which later became the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and became one of its first principals. Ch’ien’s highest educational level was only junior high school.

In fact, from 2013 to this year, only four out of six current or former deputy vice chancellors and pro vice chancellors are doctoral degree holders, according to research by Ming Pao Daily.

In 2003, Chan said in a media interview that he did study for a doctoral degree in the London School of Economics and Political Science in 1988, but he later decided to give it up because he wanted to spend more time helping people understand legal problems in Hong Kong society that was then facing multiple issues regarding its return to Chinese rule.

Chan, who has published a number of books and theses and represented many famous legal cases besides teaching, said he has never regretted his decision.

On Thursday, Chan told Commercial Radio Hong Kong that a doctoral degree is not that important for someone in the legal profession, citing some judges in the Court of Final Appeal as examples.

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