The University of Hong Kong has kicked off another round of global scouring for a pro-vice-chancellor after rejecting law professor Johannes Chan Mun-man in an academic freedom controversy. However, the university did not list a PhD as a requirement for the job, despite the fact that Chan was turned down for not having a doctoral degree, among other reasons.

Requirements for the pro-vice-chancellor, who will be in charge of academic staffing and resources, in the second round of recruitment will be the same as in the first round, said a spokesman for the HKU Council on Tuesday following a meeting, Apple Daily reported.

hku academic freedom controversy
Council members speak after Tuesday’s meeting.

According to a job post on HKU’s website, pro-vice-chancellor candidates need to have the following qualifications:

  • A successful track record in creating and implementing distinctive academic programmes within and across disciplines;
  • Demonstrated ability to lead and manage a complex academic organisation;
  • A distinguished record of academic achievement;
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills;
  • Highest standards of personal integrity;
  • Experience in administration and resource management at a senior level.

The Council has formed a new search committee to recruit the pro-vice-chancellor. During the last round of recruitment, which began last year, the search committee unanimously recommended Johannes Chan, former dean of the Faculty of Law.

Johannes Chan Man-mun. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Johannes Chan Man-mun. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

But the HKU Council voted down Chan’s appointment in a closed door meeting in September. Later a student representative to the Council went against confidentiality rules to reveal some Council members’ reasons for rejecting Chan.

Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, who is a government-appointed member of the Council, said Chan did not qualify for pro-vice-chancellor because he does not have a doctor’s degree. Other reasons for rejecting Chan included that his name was not searched regularly enough on Google Scholar and his supposed “high-profile” support for the city’s pro-democracy movement.

There was a huge backlash against the Council’s decision following the meeting, with students and alumni protesting what they saw as the government’s interference in academic freedom.

Vivienne Zeng is a journalist from China with three years' experience covering Hong Kong and mainland affairs. She has an MA in journalism from the University of Hong Kong. Her work has been featured on outlets such as Al Jazeera+ and MSNBC.