Ex-NTU journalism lecturer joins HK varsity

Journalism professor and political commentator Cherian George is joining the Hong Kong Baptist University's School of Communication in August.

The move follows his departure from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University, which twice denied him tenure.

In a blog post last Friday, Dr George, a Singaporean, said being in Hong Kong would let him continue his journalism research, teaching and advocacy while remaining in Asia.

He has been appointed an associate professor under an initial three-year contract, reported the South China Morning Post, which confirmed it with the university.

Dr George, 49, is a former journalist at The Straits Times and has a doctorate from Stanford University. He joined the NTU in 2004 and taught courses on media in Singapore and pioneered some of its journalism programmes.

He was promoted to associate professor in 2009, the same year he won a teaching excellence award from the university. He had to leave NTU this year after his application for tenure was rejected a second time. His subsequent appeal was also turned down. For academics, tenure means job security rather than renewable contracts.

His failure despite the strong support of external reviewers for his teaching and research raised speculation that NTU's decision was politically motivated because of his past criticism of the Government.

NTU had previously said its tenure review process is "purely a peer-driven academic exercise with two equally important criteria, distinction in scholarship and high-quality teaching".

Commenting on that for the first time, Dr George said in his blog last Friday it was generally true but the "process was not followed" in his case.

NTU's criteria for tenure and promotion to associate professor are "indistinguishable", he said, and he was told he had met all the necessary criteria for promotion to associate professor in 2009. But NTU withheld tenure that year and he was assured it had nothing to do with his research, teaching or any inappropriate conduct.

NTU suggested in 2012 that the Wee Kim Wee School put him through the tenure process again and he agreed, only to be rejected again. "The real issue was that my employer's ultimate actions were inconsistent with its own positive assessment of my academic performance," said Dr George.

When contacted, an NTU spokesman said its tenure process is based on international standards. "All NTU faculty go through the same tenure review process and certainly, there have been cases of faculty promoted to associate professor without tenure," he said.

This article was published on May 11 in The Straits Times.

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