Teaching Staff’s Contracts Terminated, University’s Mismanagement Alleged

PTU News Reporter

Multiple teaching staff at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University were denied renewal of contracts. Beginning with four teaching staff from the Department of Applied Mathematics in early April, eight more half-time teaching staff from the Department of Applied Social Science also faced contract termination in late April. Criticized for putting overt emphasise on research and mismanagement, demands of the university to respond to said issues are now eminent.

Laid Off Despite Recommended for Contract Renewal

According to sources, the majority of staff laid off were assessed and given excellent ratings and recommended by their respective departments for contract renewal. The university, however, made the decision to terminate contracts with the said staff. Laid off teaching staff from the Mathematics Department revealed to the Polytechnic University Staff Association that the university deemed “transformation and more research projects” to be necessary, hence laying off teaching staff who are unrelated to academic research.

Students and Alumni Gathered to Support Laid-off Teachers

Affected teachers and the Applied Social Sciences Departmental Society of the PolyU had organized an assembly on 24th April, joined by 300 students, teachers and alumni, supporting laid-off teachers. Eight half-time teaching staff denied of contract renewal released a joint statement, explaining to teachers and students about their current conditions. Mentioned in the statement, the department made the decision to terminate contracts due to foreseen deficits in the coming years. Also, the decision was revealed to them by university representatives in a meeting room, they had subsequently discovered security guards standing by upon leaving, arousing feelings of disrespect. They therefore condemn the poor handling of the contract terminations to be infuriating.

The statement had also revealed contract terminations of eight teaching staff in 2005, also with similar grounds of financial deficit. Said teaching staff were re-employed due to the necessity of teaching staff in monitoring students’ internships in the Social Work curriculum. They were re-employed as half-time teaching staff, with salaries cut by 40 to 50 percent. In this process, not only were the earnings of these teaching staff drastically reduced, part of their MPF funds were also offset consequently. The statement calls into question the university’s preference of development at the expense of teaching staff.

University Accused of Mismanagement from Employment to Contract Terminations

The Department of Applied Social Sciences had recruited six assistant professors and two associate professors in the past two years, questions concerning potential mismanagement were prominent in the assembly, questioning the drastic change from vast recruitment to vast laid-offs. Demands for the management team of the university to cut salaries in order to reduce university expenses were raised. The absurdity of the university in terminating contracts of teachers who has been serving the university for 18 to 23 years in order to cut costs is incomprehensible, especially with the university’s latest annual report reporting a surplus of near 400 millions of dollars in 2017. Participants of the assembly criticized the university’s intentions of promoting rankings by recruiting scholars with research backgrounds as professors in order to increase the number of journal articles published by the university, neglecting the impacts created upon teaching duties. Participants made strong demands to urge PolyU to explain publicly the reasons behind contract termination.

Invited to the assembly as guest, FUNG Wai-wah, President of the HKPTU criticized the current trends among universities to emphasize research at the expense of education, forgoing quality education for university rankings. Fung expressed discontent in universities’ assessment of the performance and significance of teaching staff and departments on the sole basis of research abilities. Fung further demanded the university to retract decision of contract termination. He will also be meeting the Chairman of the Council of the PolyU to express his concern, demanding for the Council to provide explanation on the issue. CHAN Ming-yin, Chairman of the Polytechnic University Staff Association demands the university to reinstate all laid off teaching staff, and for the university to prioritize education instead of university rankings.

The printed version of this article has reported PolyU “latest annual report reporting billions of dollars of surplus in 2017”, but the correct amount of surplus is “near 400 millions“. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.