- A number of resignations has decimated the management team and in these difficult times, it is paramount to redouble efforts to attract the brightest and the best to rebuild the hierarchy
Personnel changes are not unusual for a university with thousands of employees. But when those at the highest levels at the University of Hong Kong are leaving one after another within a short period of time, concerns are justified. Efforts must be made to speed up new hiring and to minimise disruption to the university's operations.
Announced by university president Zhang Xiang on Wednesday, the resignations of executive vice-president for administration and finance Steven Cannon and vice-president for research Professor Andy Hor Tzi-sum have inevitably raised eyebrows. Together with two previous resignations, four of the six in the senior management team have resigned since Zhang took charge in July 2018. The appointment of the two remaining members will also expire by the end of this year and next year respectively.
The university quickly sought to dispel speculation, saying the resignations were purely due to personal and family reasons and were unrelated to the "prevailing social and political situations". Be that as it may, the departures will still have an impact on management and operations.
The university is no stranger to political controversies. This includes coping with pressure arising from the pro-independence debate and the 2014 Occupy protests. It has barely recovered from the row that saw the promotion of a liberal legal scholar to pro-vice-chancellor being blocked amid criticisms of his ties with the Occupy protests. Last month, Zhang had a hard time fielding questions from students who were upset with his stance on the protests sparked by the now-shelved extradition bill. Amid increasingly keen global competition for talent, concerns have been raised about the city's political environment becoming a deterrent for qualified people to work here.
Stability is of paramount importance to development. Having gone through a series of political storms, the university badly needs a strong and stable management team. While rankings by various institutes still place it as among Asia's finest, the university is struggling to stay ahead in a difficult environment. It must prove that it can rise to the challenge.
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