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HKU scours globe for staff

Published on Friday, 08 Oct 2010
A large donor base and network of alumni enable HKU to offer internationally competitive salaries.
Photo: HKU

The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has begun the second stage of its centennial recruitment plan, looking for 80 academics to fill posts needed for the four-year curriculum to be launched in 2012.

The institution has already recruited 117 staff in the first stage, mainly comprising associate or assistant professors. The new recruits include a small number of teaching consultants who will concentrate solely on teaching.

"We are on track to meet our recruitment target by June 2012," says Yvonne Koo, head of human resources at HKU. Positions are also available for staff responsible for curriculum changes to broaden students' education.

As in the past, the university has recruited globally. "We want the best talent from around the world," Koo says. "The quality of our new recruits is very high, and we have filled 95 per cent of the positions available in the first stage."

Almost 70 per cent of the recruits are from abroad, mainly from the United States, Britain, Canada, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and Ukraine. About 20 per cent originate from the mainland. Local professionals make up about 30 per cent of the new hires. Koo says there is stiff competition for staff across various fields, such as architecture, law, finance, education, medicine, arts and engineering.

HKU, ranked the leading Asian university according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings released last month, appeals to overseas academics because of its reputation, proximity to the mainland and its own vibrant community.

"China is a dynamic country with a huge potential," Koo says. "Hong Kong as an international city also has its own characteristics, while we are recognised as an institution with an international profile that uses English as the medium of instruction."

About 55 per cent of HKU's academic staff are from overseas, alongside a diverse student mix. The entire academic and non-academic staff and student community at HKU number 11,000. This figure will increase by one-fifth by 2012.

Candidates for academic positions are expected to have a doctorate and a good track record in research. Most of HKU's latest recruits have doctorates.

"For the younger applicants, say post-doctoral fellows, we will look at their potential, academic background, who their supervisors were, and the awards they have won," Koo says.

Among the positions waiting to be filled are a small number of teaching-only posts in the faculty of education and others, targeting middle-aged applicants with a strong passion for teaching and strategies of instruction. "We need people who can demonstrate innovation in teaching. We will look at candidates' portfolios, their vision and what new ideas they can bring to HKU," Koo says. There are research posts for dedicated researchers who feel more comfortable in a laboratory environment. HKU has allowed more staff to concentrate on either teaching or research, depending on their interests.

"But there are researchers who are equally enthusiastic about teaching and can inspire students with their upfront knowledge," Koo says.

There is ample support for research staff at the university, from new facilities, including branch libraries to be built under HKU's Centennial Campus extension plan, and conference grants, to funding support from the Research Grants Council. HKU libraries boast the most comprehensive collection of all tertiary institutions in Hong Kong, according to Koo. She says: "We are in a leadership position in terms of the number of projects approved and the total amount of competitive earmarked research grants given by the Research Grants Council. Researchers need not worry about not having [sufficient] support."

Internationally competitive salaries are offered to the right applicants, thanks partly to the university's efforts to raise funds. "We have a large donor base and network of alumni who are very willing to give support," Koo says.

The university emphasises the importance of work-life balance. "The range of activities offered for our staff, like tai chi and paper-cutting, has been tremendously popular," she says. "They are taught by accomplished instructors."

Housing allowance  

  • Assistant professor HK$12,000
  • Associate professor HK$15,000
  • Professor HK$20,000 or free accommodation
  • Teaching consultant's housing allowance depends on grade


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