There is controversy over the imminent appointment of Peter Mathieson – the future vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh. The controversy concerns the results of a recent survey of staff from his current institution – the University of Hong Kong. Results indicate that Mathieson ‘didn’t uphold academic freedom’, and arguably worse, doesn’t ‘understand the needs of students and staff’. These revelations are threatening to overshadow his upcoming appointment.
Mathieson will become the new vice-chancellor of the University in February – now just weeks away. He will leave the University of Hong Kong, where he has spent three years as the vice-chancellor there. He was due to have a five-year tenure, but is ending his stay quicker than expected. Mathieson has attracted unwanted news however, with the survey mentioned above showing that staff reacted negatively to him. The survey was sent to over 2,000 people, with more than 600 responses being registered. Comments by respondents were largely negative towards Mathieson.
78% of respondents suggested they ‘strongly disagreed’ that Mathieson had protected academic freedom. Meanwhile, 80% of respondents ‘strongly disagreed’ that he understood the needs of students and staff. These results go to show the severe discontent towards Mathieson. This was summarised by a statement from William Cheung – chairman of the Staff Association at Hong Kong University, who ‘thanked’ Edunburgh University for taking Mathieson, going on to say that they were ‘looking forward to a fresh start’ in the wake of his departure. Mathieson has proven unpopular for several reasons at the University.
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In worrying news, Hong Kong University also witnessed their ranking drop in International League Tables under Mathieson’s stewardship. Edinburgh currently performs pretty well in league tables (check them out here), and therefore some alarm has been caused. Mathieson did defend himself, while some survey respondents praised him. It appears the jury is out on Edinburgh’s new vice-chancellor, and we will have to wait and see what happens. Hopefully, things will work out better!