University of Hong Kong vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson shocked the city’s academic and political circles on Thursday by announcing his resignation. He is leaving to take the helm at Scotland’s prestigious University of Edinburgh.
He will leave HKU by January next year. His decision comes two years before his contract expires.
In an email to colleagues, students and alumni, Mathieson said he was leaving for “personal reasons”, but stressed there would be “no loss of momentum at HKU” in the year ahead.
Mathieson took the helm at HKU in April 2014, five months before the outbreak of the 79-day pro-democracy Occupy protests.
His vice-chancellorship witnessed the controversial rejection of HKU law professor Johannes Chan Man-mun’s promotion to a senior manager’s job, and what he called “mob rule” by some students when they besieged a council meeting last January to press for a review of the university’s governance structure.
Dr William Cheung Sing-wai, chairman of the university’s Academic Staff Association, told Young Post that he was surprised at Mathieson’s resignation.
“His resignation could be caused by the high-handed approach of Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, the university’s governing council chairman. I think Mathieson struggled to stand his ground under Li’s supervision. If he is willing to take the helm at Edinburgh University even though he will be paid less, it suggests he’s unhappy with his current position,” said Cheung.
HKU student Joseph Ho Hei-chi was disappointed by the news, claiming Mathieson was not a responsible vice-chancellor. “He should have completed his contract. I don’t believe he was leaving for “personal reasons”. He was probably frustrated by Li’s authoritarian rule, leading to his early departure. The whole saga showed he didn’t have a say at the university’s governing council.”