16 May 2022

Clarification by the Secretary of the University Council – Vice-Chancellor’s Reappointment

16 May 2022

This statement is in response to certain commentary regarding the process leading to the reappointment of Professor Rocky S. Tuan as CUHK’s Vice-Chancellor and President, which was announced after Council’s passing of a resolution at its meeting on 26 April 2022.

Professor Tuan’s reappointment followed established procedures used by CUHK over decades for the reappointment of senior academic leaders, including the Vice-Chancellor, Provost and Faculty Deans, and is in alignment with best practices used by many peer university systems in Hong Kong and around the world. It is important to note that all Vice-Chancellors (including Professor Tuan) are initially appointed by the Council following an open, competitive and global recruitment process. It is a widely accepted practice that where both parties mutually agree on a reappointment, a further open and competitive process is not required, given the incumbent had already been through an extensive recruitment process at the time of their initial appointment.

Some external commentators have questioned the need for a decision made more than eighteen months prior to the conclusion of Professor Tuan’s first term at the end of 2023. It is in fact not unreasonable. If both parties could not mutually agree to an extension, the University would soon need to commence a global search for a new Vice-Chancellor. With past experience at CUHK and more recently across Hong Kong’s universities, a search period of at least twelve to eighteen months would be expected.

Professor Tuan is an eminent scholar of global standing who has made an enormous contribution to scholarship and leadership of higher education. His Vice-Chancellorship has elevated the university’s international academic standing and seen CUHK embark on a bold, ambitious five-year strategic plan which will see the University make a strong contribution to Hong Kong, the nation, and the world.

In considering Professor Tuan’s mutual interest in exploring a further term, established procedures were adopted: discussions were initiated in the summer of 2021, which was formally presented to University Council in January 2022. After establishing Professor Tuan’s willingness to consider a further term, an extensive consultation process then followed in March. This process involved eight stakeholder engagement sessions with representatives of alumni, staff, students, senior management as well as Council Members. These consultation sessions provided stakeholders with an opportunity for a free and frank discussion including the Vice-Chancellor’s leadership, his performance, and his aspirations for CUHK’s strategic development. Stakeholders considered Professor Tuan’s track record, his commitment to upholding CUHK’s heritage, and the University’s philosophical tradition of “through learning and temperance to virtue”. Stakeholders expressed their enthusiastic support for the Vice-Chancellor’s reappointment.

Next, at a special session of Council the Vice-Chancellor shared his vision for CUHK should he be reappointed to a further term. A special committee with delegated authority from Council, comprising its then Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Treasurer and Chairman of the Terms of Service Committee, then recommended the Council approve Professor Tuan’s reappointment for a mutually agreed further term of three years. The meeting where Professor Tuan was reappointed was a regular meeting of Council which had been set at the commencement of the 2021/2022 Academic Year when all Council meetings for the year are announced.

Commenting for this clarification, CUHK’s new Council Chairman Professor John Chai Yat-Chiu said, “the Council followed a rigorous, well-established process, and consulted extensively across the CUHK community”. He also hopes the Vice-Chancellor’s leadership will continue CUHK’s trajectory of excellence in research and knowledge exchange. Professor Chai further said “I am sure that CUHK will remain a guiding light of whole-person education, ensuring the next generation of young people are equipped with the skills and values to benefit humanity. I look forward to discussions with a wide range of our stakeholders to share ideas on how CUHK can play an even larger role in forging a shared future for our city”.