BREAKING: Peter Høj to be next UoA Vice-Chancellor

Words by Ivan Bucalo Jankovic

Credit: The Australian

he wait is finally over: former University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor, Peter Høj, will take the top job at the University of Adelaide.

In an email to all students, Chancellor Catherine Branson announced Mr Høj will formally take office next Monday 8th Feb.

Branson cited his extensive leadership experience in the education and public service sectors, including a stint as UniSA’s Vice-Chancellor between 2007 and 2012.

Born in Denmark, where he studied chemistry, Høj moved to Melbourne where he was granted a post-doctorate fellowship at La Trobe University. Høj was a prodigious scientist and researcher before moving into management roles.

In 2012, Høj was appointed Vice-Chancellor at the University of Queensland. Initially, his tenure was marked by a jump in UQ’s university ranking, but became marred by a series of scandals involving his affiliation with the Confucius Institute, a Chinese Government-sponsored think tank, with locations across Australia and overseas, including at our university. During Høj’s time as a consultant at the Institute, which coincided with being VC, it was reported that the Institute had co-funded four courses offered at the university, potentially signalling a conflict of interest. An ABC report alleged the Institute had also been involved in honorary staff appointments at UQ and had influenced the design of the curriculum beyond those courses mentioned. The Confucius Institute has since ceased funding to UQ after these reports came to light.

In 2019, UQ became the centre of a media firestorm after student activist, Drew Pavlou, was assaulted at a pro-Hong Kong democracy rally which he helped organize. His involvement in human rights campaigns, which also criticized China’s authoritarian government and persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, especially the Uyghurs and Tibetans, seem to have led to his suspension on what the University alleges were totally unrelated grounds (Pavlou was suspended for 2 years reportedly for bullying and stealing a pen from the university Co-op).

Critics accused UQ, and Høj in particular, of failing to protect Pavlou after backlash. UQ failed to reproach Adjunct Professor, Xu Jie, for condoning the violence against Pavlou as “patriotic behaviour” from Chinese students at the rally. It was revealed in April 2020 that Høj received a $200 000 bonus from UQ partly due to improving the university’s relationship with China. Pavlou has since taken UQ to the Supreme Court to appeal his suspension on free-speech grounds.

More to come on this story later today.

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Ivan Jankovic, Stasi Kapetanos, Isobel Moore, and Michelle Roylance. Get in touch: onditmag@gmail.com