The University of Adelaide has announced that Professor Peter Hoj, AC will be its new Vice-Chancellor.
Professor Hoj served as UQ’s Vice-Chancellor from 2012 to 2020.
For Professor Hoj, it is a return to the University that appointed him a Professor of Viticulture (winegrowing) in 1995, and where he continued to work until 2004, when he was appointed CEO of the Australian Research Council.
Professor Hoj’s time at the University of Queensland was bookended by scandal. When he arrived in 2012, it was to replace Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Greenfield, AO, whose daughter was appointed to the University’s medical school after an “irregularity” in the admissions process.
When Professor Hoj announced his departure from UQ in 2019, it was just before the outbreak of unrest regarding the University’s relationship with China. Professor Hoj’s role as a senior consultant for Hanban (which oversees Confucius Institutes around the world) was one focus of the hostilities towards the University at the time.
Former UQ Senator Drew Pavlou, who was at the head of the 2019 protest movement, has spoken out against the appointment.
Mr Pavlou invited his Facebook followers to dislike UofA’s YouTube video announcing the appointment, before announcing that he would be travelling to Adelaide to protest the appointment in person.
“This is the state of elite politics in Australia,” Mr Pavlou wrote on Facebook.
“If you try and destroy free speech on Australian campuses by going after student critics of the imperialist Chinese state, you’ll be handsomely financially awarded, you‘ll receive Australia Day honours, new job offers, hell, you can even use your position as a Chinese diplomat to endorse violent campus assaults, the government will do nothing,” he said.
The Adelaide University Student Representative Council has announced that they will be holding a snap rally to protest the appointment.
Mr Pavlou says he and Bob Katter MP will be traveling to Adelaide to voice their concerns about the appointment.
For Professor Hoj, though, it seems the focus is on the more practical elements of being a University executive.
As with when he was appointed to the University of Queensland, Professor Hoj is inheriting a University in the midst of scandal. His appointment at Adelaide Uni follows the departure of Peter Rathjen, who resigned after he was found to have sexually harassed colleagues.
As well, Professor Hoj has previously been on the record as being in favour of a merger between the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia. This option is still on the cards amid the decline in international student numbers.
Professor Hoj has spent this week addressing these issues, as well as his own reputation for cooperating with China, in interviews with The Australian newspaper.
In a video uploaded by the University of Adelaide announcing Hoj’s appointment, the new Vice-Chancellor said he was excited to be returning to the university.
“I am delighted to rejoin the University of Adelaide in a new Capacity,” Hoj said in the video.