Abstract: Higher education in Macau, China, is characterized by vocationalization of institutions, lack of faculty professionalization, and little or no shared governance. It is true that as compared with their counterparts in mainland China, professors in Macau enjoy more academic freedom in terms of what research to do and how they teach their classes. But they face increasing restrictions in research and teaching, and lack power in academic programing and the selection of their colleagues and academic managers. Using general statistics of higher education in Macau and a case study of one university, this chapter illustrates not only the status of the profession but also the structural, cultural, and individual factors which influence that status. The findings have an important implication for the development of higher education in Macau in the post-colonial era. At a time of universal corporatization and commercialization in higher education, this study explores a challenge to academic freedom in one place in China but it is a challenge that higher education faces elsewhere, too.
Situated at the west of the Pearl River estuary opposite Hong Kong, Macau has a population of over 650,000. Colonized by Portugal in 1553, Macau was returned to China in 1999 and since then has been under the “One country, Two systems” arrangement with mainland China, operating on a capitalist system rather than the current socialism-based one of mainland China. Macau has inherited from the Portuguese a political system that is semi-democratic and predominantly authoritarian, which meshes well with Chinese authoritarianism. Such a political system will inevitably have an impact on its colleges and universities and consequently on a faculty’s professional identity and their academic freedom.
With a relatively short history of higher education, faculty professionalization has never developed in Macau as it has in the West. Macau’s first higher educational institution (HEI), the College of St. Paul, established by missionaries in 1594, was closed in 1762 and attempts to build colleges did not succeed until 1981 when Macau’s major university, the University of East Asia, was built. At present there are 10 post-secondary schools of different orientations and sizes, most of them focused on vocational training.
What is the Macau faculty’s professional identity, what is their academic freedom like, and how do they experience decision-making and thus control? What are the political, cultural and individual obstacles to the development of academic professionalism and freedom? In the following pages, I will 1) briefly introduce the key features of higher education in Macau, especially as related to issues of faculty professionalization; 2) define the professional identity of faculty; 3) introduce the method of my qualitative research, i.e., a case study of faculty at a university in Macau; 4) report the findings, illustrating how faculty experience decision-making, and discuss the structural, cultural, and individual factors influencing the formation of faculty’s professional identity; 5) conclude, emphasizing the role of individual faculty members in enhancing their professional identity and academic freedom.
In-depth studies on higher education in Macau are rare, and rarer is the study of faculty’s professional identity and academic freedom. This study fills a gap in this intellectual pursuit and has some important implications for both policymakers and practitioners in Macau and elsewhere regarding the status of the academic profession.
Some Key Features of Higher Education in Macau
The short history of higher education in Macau has not allowed much time for faculty professionalization. The College of St. Paul (sometimes called the St. Paul University College), financed by the Portuguese king and the city senate and supplemented by donations from other Catholics and lay people, has left little legacy. The college was small, with fewer than 100 students and 10 teachers and taught languages, including Latin, Japanese and Chinese, theology, philosophy, ethics, and arts. Later physics, astronomy and medicine were added (Li 2001:79-87, 109, 137-39). The college was closed in 1762 as a result of the Rites Controversy when Jesuits were arrested and transported to Portugal.
For over two hundred years the Portuguese Macau government did not establish another HEI. In 1900-1904, Gezhi College moved to Macau but did not last long. Chinese scholars then established Huaqiao (overseas) University (1950), Huanan (south China) University (1950), Yuehai Wen Shang (humanities and business) College (1949), and Zhongshan College of Education (Zhongshan Jiaoyu Xueyuan) (1950), but they soon closed for lack of both social and political support. Students had to go elsewhere for their college education (Lau 2002; Ma 2010). In 1981, some Hong Kong businessmen were able to convince the Macau government to allow them to establish the University of East Asia (UEA), mainly a market-oriented and commercialized business school (Ma 2010:33).
Things changed in 1988 when the government purchased UEA and changed its name to the University of Macau (UM). Humanities, science, technology and the social sciences were gradually introduced. Meanwhile, other colleges and universities were established. Table 1 is a summary of the colleges and universities currently in Macau, including the date of their establishment and the number of students and faculty as of 2012/2013.
Sources of data: Mark Bray et al., with Roy Butler, Philip Hui, Ora Kwo & Emily Mang (2002), Higher Education in Macau, pp. 19-26; Tertiary Education Services Office of Macau government (2013), Tertiary Education Services Office Annual Book 2012.
*AIOU: The Asia International Open University (Macau), the previous name of CityU.
**IIUM: The Inter-University Institute of Macau, a joint initiative by the Catholic University of Portugal and the Diocese of Macau now called USJ.
***The Macau Millennium College’s Chinese name is Zhong Xi Chuangxin Xueyuan (Sino-Western Innovation College), under the auspices of SJM (Sociedade de Jogos de Macau, S.A.), a corporation whose main business is gambling.
From the names of the HEIs in Macau in Table 1, one can see that most of them, MPI, IFT, KWNCM, MSFSS, MIM, and MMC, are focused on vocational training. That raises the question of the mission of higher education, but most importantly the identity and calling of the faculty. If vocational training is the main goal of higher education, one might not expect much academic training of the faculty. Thus we see in Table 2 that a large percentage of faculty in Macau’s HEIs work on a part-time basis and do not have a PhD.
More than a third of college and university faculty in Macau have little job security as part-timers and about half, as indicated by the lack of a PhD, are not fully professionalized. They therefore do not enjoy the kind of professional autonomy and academic freedom faculty are assumed under Western traditions to enjoy. Moreover, there is no tenure system in Macau, so one can argue that even full-time faculty have no job security and consequently do not enjoy much academic freedom. Dismissals rarely happen, but in 2014 two full-time professors were sacked partly because of their political views (Hao 2015). If full-time faculty with PhDs can be dismissed for political reasons, part-time faculty are especially vulnerable.
But what is academic freedom and how is it linked to academic professional identity?
Academic Freedom and Professionalism: An Academic Identity
In China, professionalism did not come into being until after the self-strengthening movement in the 1860s when technical intellectuals began to grow. Peking University, a modern HEI, was established only in 1898. Faculty governance (or shared governance) and academic freedom, both indicators of academic professionalism and identity, were introduced at Peking University in the early twentieth century by Cai Yuanpei, the university president (1912-1927). A faculty senate (教授会) and faculty governance committee (行政会) were established. The faculty senate’s job was to design academic policies and assess academic qualities, and the faculty governance committee would serve like a board of trustees, assessing and making policies both academic and beyond (Du 2017). However, since then the faculty governance role has been markedly diminished under the authoritarianism of the Nationalist Party, Mao Zedong’s dictatorship, and authoritarianism since the Deng Xiaoping era. Presently, authoritarianism is the order of the day in both mainland China and Macau, severely limiting a tradition of professionalism and academic freedom, the major guarantee of quality in higher education.
What is professionalism anyway? In this paper I assume professionalism as a universal value and will use the development of professionalism in the U.S. as a comparison point. The sociology of professions has long considered the meaning of professionalism and professionalization (Abbott 1988; Aronowitz and DiFazio 1994; Brint 1994; Clark 2008; Collins 1990; Freidson 1970, 1973; Hao 2003; Larson 1977). The professionalism of college teaching, i.e., the creation and transmission of knowledge (see also the discussion of Kant and Durkheim in Chapter 2), may be what Clark (2008:319) regards as the logic or identity of the profession. It is the social function discharged by the professional scholar, according to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) (Gerber 2014:52), and a calling, as Clark (2008:325-26) observes, that “transmutes narrow self-interest into other-regarding and ideal-regarding interests: one is linked to fellow workers and to a version of a larger common good. It has moral content, contributing to civic virtue.” Here the professor finds “the fascinations of research and the enchantments of teaching,” or “the demon who holds the very fibers” of his or her very life, and “the rewards of personal fulfillment and a sense of societal service.”
To fulfill this academic calling, i.e., the creation of scientific knowledge and education as “the cornerstone of the structure of society,” whose progress is “essential to civilization,” “the professorial office should be one both of dignity and of independence” (AAUP 2001, 294; see also Weber 1973). This means that faculty needs to have academic freedom and the means to exercise that freedom. In 1915, when the AAUP was established, its first job was to define academic freedom. Its 1940 statement on academic freedom is a classic: 1) the freedom to do research and publish the results; 2) the freedom to discuss subject matter in the classroom; and 3) the freedom to write and speak as citizens without institutional censorship or unwanted sanction (AAUP 2001; Gerber 2014; Ruch 2001; Teichler et al. 2013).
As is also discussed in Chapter 2, in a 1957 statement, American Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter defined the “four essential freedoms” of a university as: the freedom to determine for itself who may teach, what may be taught, how it should be taught, and who may be admitted to study (cited in Thelin 2004). More importantly, these matters are reserved for the direct control of the faculty, not for either the president or the trustees (Birnbaum and Eckel 2005).
To guarantee academic freedom in the terms outlined above, shared governance has developed, where faculty play an important role in core academic areas like recruitment of new faculty, tenure and promotion, and academic programing. Faculty should enjoy “a large degree of autonomy from lay control and normal organizational control” (Clark 2008:123) in relation to the trustees of the governing board and the administrators of colleges and universities (see also Pennock et al. 2015). “The governing board and president should, on questions of faculty status [the recruitment of new faculty, promotion, and dismissal], as in other matters where the faculty has primary responsibility [educational policies], concur with the faculty judgment except in rare instances and for compelling reasons which should be stated in detail” (AAUP 2001:221). Although the selection of academic deans and other chief academic officers is the responsibility of the president, it should be done “with the advice of, and in consultation with, the appropriate faculty” (AAUP 2001:219).
The process of achieving shared governance is the process of professionalization, i.e., establishing mechanisms that will foster the identity and calling of the profession and guarantee its autonomy “in selecting the economic terms of work, the location and social organization of work, and the technical content of the work” (Freidson 1970:44). This negotiation of professional autonomy or academic freedom is usually done between professional associations and other stakeholders in higher education. AAUP, for example, “has been engaged in developing standards for sound academic practice and in working for the acceptance of these standards by the community of higher education” and by the society in general, including the state (AAUP 2001, ix).
Academic professionalization is thus a process of constantly defining the boundaries of academic freedom and defending faculty autonomy. In the U.S. for example, one survey found that between 1970 and 2001 those who reported either faculty determination or joint control with administrators in the recruitment of new faculty members rose from 31 to 73 percent, and those who reported substantial faculty control over tenure and promotion decisions rose from 36 to 71 percent (for the statistics in this and the following paragraph, see Gerber 2014:159-160). Those who reported substantial faculty control over the curriculum and degree requirements rose from 80 percent to 90 percent.
Faculty determination or joint authority in the selection of department chairs rose from 22 percent in 1970 to 54 percent in 2001. Only four percent said that faculty had no role at all. However, the faculty influence in the selection of deans and vice presidents and presidents was small: 32 percent in 2001, although still an increase from 14 percent in 1970, with only five percent saying that faculty played no role at all. Moreover, more than 90 percent of the institutions surveyed had some kind of senate, chaired mostly by an elected faculty member. This could mean “fully collaborative decision making” or “simple consultation” or “information sharing” (Gerber 2014:160).
Granted that faculty power in the U.S. has been eroded to some extent in the last decade (see Chapter 2), university teaching in the U.S. is still a very strong profession, and it is fair to assume that in general professors in the U.S. enjoy more academic freedom than in most other parts of the world. Thus, to use faculty governance as developed in the U.S. as an indicator of professional identity development in Macau would help us see more clearly the status of the academic profession and identity of the professor. That is what I will do below.
A Note on Our Research Methods
The university studied, hereafter called the University, has both undergraduate and graduate programs, and a fairly large faculty. Most of the faculty members are recruited internationally. A majority have a Chinese cultural background, but they tend to be returned students from the West, who were professionalized in the West before they came to Macau. The University can be characterized as a “striving” institution (Gonzales et al. 2014): it places great emphasis on improving its position in international university rankings, has made great investment in recruiting productive researchers and has distributed a huge amount of money for research. Research support and most faculty benefits are in general superior to many in the U.K. or the U.S.
The research team interviewed faculty members, administrators, and students, altogether 44 from the University: nine assistant professors, eight associate professors, 10 full professors, six administrators, and 11 students, both undergraduate and graduate. Most interviews lasted from one to one and a half hours, but several lasted for two hours, and a couple of interviews were through emails. We also interviewed three professors from three other institutions of higher education to give us a sense of conditions elsewhere in the region. The interviews were done in professors’ offices or cafes between 2013 and 2014.
I have not set out to look for deviant cases to refine or reconstruct the theory of university governance, neither in analyzing the case University nor in reporting individual faculty members’ points of view (see Small 2009 about such methodological issues). The ultimate purpose of the paper is to examine the mechanisms and processes of professionalization or the lack thereof in a striving university. This method is in line with Clyde Mitchell’s and Michael Burawoy’s extended case method, which seeks to uncover social mechanisms, trace processes, and to understand the larger forces shaping those mechanisms and processes, whether in unique or in deviant cases (see Small 2009).
The research methods used here are also in line with Robert Yin’s (1989) principle of sequential interviewing in that each case in our study (i.e., each interviewee) “provides an increasingly accurate understanding of the question at hand” (Small 2009, 24-25). I have used a similar set of questions with different stakeholders, but they have all focused on the role of faculty in research, teaching and service, from the perspective of various professors as well as students. Interviews were conducted more like discussions, explorations, and explanations than questions and answers. The objective is saturation, i.e., team members are fairly confident that the cases we have studied have provided us with most if not all the necessary information regarding the status of professionalism in the region.
Findings and Discussion
The Role of Faculty in Personnel Matters
As discussed above, professionalization in the form of shared governance means that the faculty play a crucial role in the recruitment of new faculty members and in promotion. Normally, the dean and the president are not involved directly in the processes and will go along with committee decisions. For the dean or the president to disapprove of a candidate without compelling reasons would be a serious violation of shared governance and an encroachment on professional autonomy and academic freedom. However, in our case University, while faculty members may be involved in the selection of job candidates, the rectors (presidents) can, and sometimes do, reject job candidates approved by the faculty level committees usually headed either by a dean or a vice president. (Since all the academic deans, vice presidents and the president were men at the time of research, I will use “he” to refer to any one of them.) This has caused discomfort among faculty, as one professor comments (Interview Notes, Full5):
The rector is too micro-managing. When we hire a faculty member, even if this is only an assistant professor, he would use his veto power. But are you qualified to make such decisions? What are your fields of study? You cannot possibly know every field, right?
Usually the reasons given are either that the candidate does not come from a prestigious university or he or she does not have enough publications. Whatever the reason, the faculty role is diminished.
Deans also have much more power than in the U.S. and Europe in general. They decide the composition of the recruitment and promotion committees; the identities of the members and how they are selected are not public. At the meetings, the administrator directs where the discussion goes (Interview Notes, Full10). Faculty’s, especially junior faculty’s, voices are seldom heard, if ever (Interview Notes, Assis1, Assoc1). The dean, in consultation with the rector, decides which department can have new hires and what kind. Sometimes the rector or vice rector makes that decision directly with the department chair with little consultation with the dean. The dean decides whether one’s promotion application can even be processed, his power expanding especially when the criteria are not clear (Interview Notes, Assoc2). Professors thus do not have real autonomy in choosing their own colleagues as academic professionalization and freedom would require. Rather the dean is often the person who decides the composition of the department, and sometimes it is the rector who makes that decision.
Rather than faculty determination or joint authority in the selection of department chairs (see also Interview Notes, Admin2, Assoc5), in our case University these are appointed by the dean and the rector with no consultation with the faculty. Because of the lack of faculty participation in selecting department chairs, people feel less of an attachment to the department, and the department chairs feel they have more responsibility to the management than to the faculty and students. The same problem applies to the higher management positions. The appointment of deans, vice rectors and the rector may go through an open international search. Faculty members may be invited to presentations and give their opinions, but it is not clear how much their comments count (Interview Notes, Assoc4, Assoc5, Full2). Many believe that participation is only a formality (Interview Notes, Assoc2, Full5).
With the mainlandization of Macau, it is not even clear whether the selections of higher-level managers will go through an international search and involve faculty participation, let alone lower level managers. In its most recent selection of the rector position, for example, no faculty member was invited to be part of the selection committee. It was not clear if even more than one candidate was invited to a campus interview. Even though the committee held meetings to ask for faculty opinion, it was not at all clear whether any faculty opinions mattered. As a result of such selection methods, the managers are obligated to serve the will of the higher authorities rather than the need of faculty and students. We will discuss further the problem of mainlandization later in the chapter.
The Role of Faculty in Research and Teaching Policies
Professors at the University are required to publish in SCI, SSCI, and A&HCI journals so that they can increase the University’s citation indexes in its pursuit of world rankings. These requirements are not usually negotiated with the faculty and furthermore are driven very much by a science-based model (Interview Notes, Full1) not fully applicable to humanities and social sciences. As one professor says (Interview Notes, Full1),
I don’t write many journal articles. I write books, I write chapters of books, occasionally, unlike journal articles. And for me it’s not very interesting to write journal articles. It has limited impact. But if a book is well received, it can have considerable impact. But in the science field books are of second grade.
He complains that his books and book chapters are not worth as much as a journal article. Others point out that although books are representations of one’s system of knowledge (Interview Notes, Assoc2, Assis2, Assoc2), they are not valued, since they do not count in international rankings.
The University not only emphasizes journal articles but requires that they be in English and published by international publishers, especially for junior and middle-level faculty members. Most international journals are not very interested in publishing research on Macau. But that’s not the university’s concern. The editor of one of the top journals in China studies once told me that he is not interested in publishing Macau studies since it will not help his citation indexes. One professor tells us that even scholarly research on Chinese literature must be written in English in order to be recognized as important. This is like requiring an American university paper on Shakespeare to be written in Chinese to be considered valuable research. Local studies must be published internationally, too, or they are not given much credit (Interview Notes, Assoc6). Works published locally in Chinese are not counted by international rating regimes and are therefore rarely valued by the administrators (see also Interview Notes, Full2) who make their decisions top-down. Faculty protests are usually futile. In a word, faculty may be free to do whatever research they want to do, but they feel less free to publish their findings in whatever venues they choose.
The pursuit of rankings has not only forced the faculty to change the way they do their work but has also resulted in a change of values and professional identity. In order to increase the production of indexed journal articles, faculty members are assigned to research, balanced, or teaching tracks. Each track carries an indexed journal paper production quota. Faculty unable to fulfill the quota are bumped down to a lower track to teach more courses, which is often viewed as a punishment, thus eroding the core values of education, rendering teaching more or less meaningless and depriving teachers of their sense of calling and professional identity. As a result, traditional teachers “feel very very depressed, demoralized.” “The university ranking might have risen, but the idea of the university is lost. Humanism is lost. People’s respect for you is lost” (Interview Notes, Full3). Furthermore, dividing professors against their own desires into three classes—researchers, researchers/teachers, and teachers—makes it harder to build an academic community. It goes against “von Humboldt’s concept of the university, where teaching and research are integrally linked—the Humboldtian model has been the guiding principle of the American research university since the beginning” (Altbach and Finkelstein 2014).
Finally, program changes and creations are basically decided by administrators, rather than being bottom-up proposals based on what faculty believe to be educational needs (Interview Notes, Full10). An academic program is initiated or approved because the managers believe it is useful to their own purposes, such as university rankings or government needs, rather than what faculty believe to be educational or social needs.
As Chapters 2, 4 and 5 point out, ideological control in China is thereby very much strengthened. That has a ripple effect in Macau. For example, the faculty have to get approval from the management when they invite guest speakers from Taiwan and Hong Kong. Professors who lean towards Taiwan independence or Hong Kong autonomy are often denied entry into Macau at the customs. Faculty members on research trips to Taiwan are required to report to the university authorities whom they have met and what they have done. In both research and teaching policies, the faculty are deprived of participation in much of the decision-making processes, and their professional status and academic freedom are very much strained.
Faculty Involvement in University Governance Organizations
The senate (at the university level) and the academic council (AC, at the faculty/college level) at our case University are only advisory bodies, according to the University’s organizational charter published in 2013. The issues involving ACs are strictly about curricular changes (abolition and creation of programs, program revision) and student education (qualifications of graduate and postgraduate students). Again decisions are made top-down, and only rubber-stamp approvals are sought at the AC meeting. Even if an initiative is raised bottom-up, the dean can refuse to take it to the AC meeting, since he is the chair of the AC and decides what will be on the agenda. “Resolutions” passed at the AC may go nowhere unless they involve minor decisions about things like course descriptions. As one administrator comments (Interview Notes, Admin5 ),
Things started at the top and often it is just a gesture of giving the endorsement by the people, by the staff below without them having any real input in the decision. By the time to discuss them, it is already decided, you know, so the input of the staff doesn’t mean a lot… This generates a lot of bad morale from people, because they feel like nobody really listens to them.
As a result, except in rare cases when the dean is more democratic, people seldom speak out at their AC meetings because they think that whatever they say is not going to be heeded anyway. One professor calls it “learned helplessness.” The AC, faculty members say, is just like the National People’s Congress on the mainland at which people’s job is to raise their hands to endorse the Party decisions (Interview Notes, Full5; Interview Notes full6 for the same point).
There is a faculty association, but its role is limited to organizing year-end parties. It has made proposals to the University management regarding faculty welfare, but they have gone nowhere. It has not been able to influence personnel and educational policies at the University. The weakness of the faculty association mirrors the weakness of the student associations (Interview Notes, PhD1, UG3, UG4). There are faculty and university level student associations. But even if they may participate in senate and AC meetings, they seldom speak. This inactivity on the part of both faculty and student organizations affects not only the professional identity of the professors but the identity of the university as well.
The Creation of a Docile Faculty and Study Body: The Opposite of a Professional Identity
The lack of shared governance described above has resulted in the creation of a docile and alienated faculty whose interests are constantly threatened as a result of their loss of autonomy and academic freedom. As one professor points out (Interview Notes, Full8),
Because there is no tenure system, if you speak out, you may have your job in jeopardy, or various interests affected, just like in China. Who dares to speak? Younger faculty feel that they are too junior to speak out. Senior faculty want to protect the benefits they have already obtained. But of course, not speaking out is against everyone’s interest.
Several other faculty members also say that the lack of tenure plays a key role in such docility (Interview Notes, Assoc3, Full6, Full8). This lack of professional protection leads to much discontent, mistreatment of faculty, low faculty morale, and alienation on the part of the faculty. And there is almost no recourse. A professor comments (Interview Notes, Full9):
It’s almost like they’re being hit by a big truck or smashed on the ground because a dean or a department head does not like that individual and then that individual is crushed and the individual either seems to not know his rights or cannot find out what his rights are… There is no staff faculty association worth its mettle that could at least intervene on behalf of faculty and could say that we must have an appeals process, that we must have it clearly written what the rights and what the duties and what the obligations are of people, of faculty member, of staff, and of deans and department heads and all that…
Those who choose to speak out will do so at selected moments (Interview Notes, Assoc2). But in general, the faculty are docile, withdrawn, alienated, and demoralized despite being well-paid, with good benefits and conference and research grants (Interview Notes, Full9, Assoc2, Assoc3).
A docile and obedient faculty leads to a docile student body, as we have also mentioned above, and together they create a passive learning environment. There are no faculty or student forums on politically controversial issues. In 2008, the Macau government was going to legislate Article 23 of the Basic Law, a bill on state subversion. This was controversial because people were concerned about freedom of speech. Once the law was passed, what was allowed before might be considered as illegal. So some faculty members decided to organize a forum to discuss this matter, and they invited scholars from Hong Kong. Then just before the forum, they cancelled the event because the University said that the space that had been assigned to the forum was now unavailable. There has never been a forum on the true nature of the “One country, Two systems” formula, or the Hong Kong democracy movement. In the 2014 Hong Kong movement on universal suffrage, there was almost no voice coming from Macau colleges and universities. Students of communications at our case University did design a very professional flier and it was posted in several places on campus, voicing their support of the movement in Hong Kong. Some yellow ribbons were tied on the handrails of a bridge on campus. But such activities never became a movement—people did not even know who the leaders of these activities were. So their effect was very limited.
Two professors comment that students at the University do not have the ability to talk about politics (Interview Notes, Assis3). If protests are part of college life and education in the US (Rivard 2014), that is not happening at our case University. One student’s comment is apt here: the ethos of the university is harmony, not vitality (Interview Notes, MA1). The mission of the university is to train obedient workers rather than thinkers (see Interview Notes, Assis1, Assoc2, MA1, UG1). Increasingly the university generally approves only professors who follow the Party line or who present on non-political topics to come to speak on campus. The lower level managers quickly follow the cue. In 2017 a professor was inviting a controversial mainland scholar to speak on their academic forum. He asked the department chair to write an invitation letter, but the latter refused. Even if a meeting on a controversial topic such as the Cultural Revolution or national minority issues was held, the organizers would make sure that it was as low-key as possible. Academic freedom is eroded, the faculty is losing its identity and calling, and students are losing opportunities to learn to be critical thinkers.
Factors Affecting an Academic Professional Identity Formation
Given the issues of vocationalization, part-time employment and corporatized governance discussed above, what might be some of the political/structural, cultural, and individual factors that make it difficult for the faculty to form a professional identity and exercise academic freedom?
Chief among the political and structural factors is the influence of mainland China. Under the “One country, Two systems” principle, Macau is supposed to be a largely free society. Politically, however, it resembles China in its authoritarianism, although there are some limited democratic practices in the election of legislators and the Chief Executive (CE). In the so-called “executive-led” system, the CE has the power to make all the important decisions of the land. The legislature does not have the power to make laws but can only improve and approve bills submitted by the government. The CE is responsible to those who elect him, i.e., a 400 member committee, most of whom are pro-government representatives of social organizations, and to the Central government that appoints him. Increasingly the CE is required to answer to the Central government rather than to the people of Macau. This corresponds to the university system where the rectors are the decision makers and faculty have little or no role to play regarding university policies. The rectors answer to the Chief Executive, even to the Central government, and need not consult the faculty to make decisions.
If the mainland Chinese system does not allow for much academic freedom (see Chapters 2, 4 and 5), professors in Macau feel the effect. For example, the Central government has an office in Macau, called the Central Liaison Office (CLO), which coordinates the relationship between Macau and the Central government. One interviewee reports that when they invited the Consul of the American Consulate General in Hong Kong and Macau to give a talk at the University, both the CLO and the Macau government were upset and told them next time to report such invitations beforehand (Interview Notes, Admin1). One faculty member reports that he heard that a student was paid by the CLO to record his class. Another faculty member reports that his relationship with Hong Kong and Macau democracy activists was being investigated. A third faculty member reports that she and others were told by the government to stay quiet on controversial issues in Macau.
A student organization used to hold exhibitions in June of each year to commemorate the 1989 student democracy movement in China, but they stopped the practice several years ago when student organizers were called to meet officials from the CLO to talk about it (Interview Notes, Full10). They were also asked about what professors discussed in class. Some student organizers were from mainland China and had family members who were civil servants there. They were afraid that their activities in Macau would harm the opportunities of their family members back home.
Apparently there is a concerted effort in controlling what happens on campus. The mainland government is increasingly concerned about the political inclinations and activities of faculty and students in Macau for fear that Macau would become Hong Kong. As a result self-censorship is now on the rise, and faculty and students are becoming more docile.
Increasing political control in Macau culminated in the dismissal of two professors from two different universities in 2014, apparently for political reasons (Hao 2014). The reason for no contract renewal regarding one of them was ostensibly violating professional ethics to ask students to attend his political activities for extra credit. But the actual reasons were his political activities: the evidence the university presented included a letter of complaint about him passing out election fliers outside a high school and a newspaper article complaining that he should not comment on how the legislators should be elected. There were also reports on their investigation of his class assignments. It turned out that what he required was for students to attend two or three out of 12 political gatherings in Macau and to write a report for extra credit. And this was a political science class.
Another professor was fired because he commented that the CE did not have charisma. The rector said openly that the professor could not criticize the CE and comment on politics in Macau. That he was invited to go to a meeting in Portugal about Macau politics was also a reason for firing him. The lack of a tenure system only better serves that control. If the University is treated as a government department (Interview Notes, Admin1) as on the mainland, professional autonomy, identity and academic freedom are likely to suffer. Professors are supposed to be free to teach the way they think appropriate and to participate in political activities off campus as long as such activities follow professional ethics.
Culturally, Macau is basically Chinese. If American culture supports faculty governance, the Chinese hierarchical culture does not. To conform to Confucianism, faculty obey the deans, deans obey the rector, the rector obeys the University Council (UC, or the board of trustees) chair, the UC chair obeys the CE of Macau, and the CE obeys the chief of China. They all have to say yes to their superiors (Interview Notes, Admin2).
One professor interviewed believes that this is in fact a mixture of Western management style and Eastern culture (Interview Notes, Assis6; see also Full6, Admin5). Indeed corporatization, part of academic capitalism (Gonzales et al. 2014; Hao 2015; see also Chapter 2 and other chapters in the book), is on the rise in American higher education and perhaps Macau university leaders have learned the Western corporate management style. In one professor’s words, the management and faculty have combined the problematic elements of two cultures when they should be combining the best elements of both (Interview Notes, Full8).
That is a very interesting observation. So why have both administrators and faculty members chosen a system that largely goes against traditions of academic freedom and professionalism? That brings us to the last issue of analysis: individual factors.
One interviewee observes that those Chinese who have been bathed in American culture cannot wash their Chinese cultural traces away. Once they are back in China, their Chinese culture comes alive again, and the American culture fades (Interview Notes, Assoc6). Another interviewee comments that anyone [foreign teachers] who jumps into Chinese culture will be tainted (Interview Notes, Assis1).
Nevertheless, despite structural and cultural influences it is individual managers who choose top-down management style, and individual faculty members who choose whether and how to speak out. As one interviewee further explains (Interview Notes, Admin5):
I am an American, I am an outsider, and I came here recognizing this is not America… That there are certain ways people censure themselves, given the realities the central government probably discourages parades or whatever, it is never… no one ever told me I don’t do something, or I did something wrong, but on the other hand, I am not saying anything controversial. I just, maybe it is just stereotype or generalization that I just presumed it wasn’t going to be the way when I was coming in… So different cultural tradition and different kind of political system, there is a different rule whether it is official or not official. And I am not saying that is good or I think it should be like that, there ought to be freedom of speech or of doing things, but I know that, you know, it is not… I am a visitor, it is not my country…I figure there are some tradeoffs, benefits and costs.
Indeed, if one is an American or Australian or Brit one learns to adapt to an authoritarian culture. This adaptation is easier for the faculty members who are trained abroad but have a Chinese background. Very few can escape from the political and cultural constraints.
When asked whether the faculty association should be more active in protecting faculty interests like class scheduling or track assignments, some association leaders’ response is that after seeing what happened in the Cultural Revolution, etc., they hate politics and do not want to be troublemakers. Others, however, want to be more involved and more active (Interview Notes, Assis9). These are apparently individual choices. Most faculty members choose not to speak out at AC meetings, as we discussed above. But there are some people who do speak out, even though selectively. Some are afraid of joining the faculty association for fear of being viewed as troublemakers, potential enemies, the opposition (Interview Notes, Full9). But others do join. One dean or president is more democratic than another. These are individual choices.
It is true that structural/political and cultural factors greatly influence individual behavior, but ultimately it is individuals who make the choice to practice and obey top-down management style or to resist. And resistance need not be confrontational. But given the general political atmosphere in China and Macau, academic freedom and professionalism on the part of faculty are going to be an uphill battle if some want to fight it.
To sum up, higher education in Macau has a relatively short history and is very much characterized by academic capitalism such as vocationalization, casualization of faculty, and political and commercial corporatization that reflect the nature of the government system in Macau and China. These are not conducive to the development of an academic professional identity. Our case study of one university illustrates how weak or no faculty shared governance erodes academic freedom and professional identity formation in terms of who to teach, what to teach, and how to teach. Such weakness can be the result of structural factors related to the hegemony of mainland China and to the executive-led political system of Macau, as well as to cultural factors related to a Confucian ethos. But both the political system and cultural constraints are made by individuals. So they can also be results of individual choices. The formation of a professional identity, or professionalization, and the extent to which academic freedom can be exercised, are the aggregate outcome of individual decisions made by both the management and faculty.
What is the implication of this study, then? While it is difficult to change the structural factors, faculty themselves may have some room to maneuver in their own reactions and responses. Following Clark’s (2008, 131) remark:
When the faculty member feels that this sensitive right [pursuit of one’s scholarly interests] is infringed, he will run up the banners of academic freedom and inquiry, or he will fret and become a festering sore in the body politic of the campus, or he will retreat to apathy and his country house, or he will make it known in other and greener pastures that he will listen to the siren call of a good offer.
That is a range of responses. In the face of political and cultural obstacles that hinder the formation of a professional identity and practice of academic freedom, some faculty members indeed choose to rediscover their purpose and assert themselves (see also Irvine 2012, 391) under the banner of professionalism, a professional identity, an academic calling, academic freedom, autonomy, and scientific pursuits. They organize and strive to build an academic community and shared governance. In Macau, though, such individuals are few and far between. Others choose passive resistance, symbolic compliance, professional pragmatism, various cunning maneuvers, and games-playing (Mok and Cheung 2011; Teelken 2012). Still others retreat to “learned helplessness,” “just collect your pay and say nothing” (Interview Notes, Full6). A majority of the faculty members in Macau adopt these last two attitudes and behavior. An increasing number of professors at our case University have left the university or are actively looking for another job.
Whatever faculty members choose to do, it is a choice. It is true that faculty members can easily succumb to powerful structural and cultural forces, but as Gerber (2014, 168) points out, “faculty members themselves must bear some of the responsibility for the retreat from higher education’s democratic purposes that has already occurred in American colleges and universities.” The same is true of the faculty in Macau who are involved in building a “contemporary” university.
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