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NTU in the eye of a storm

Prof. Cherian George

Singapore: Nanyang Technological University (NTU), one of the biggest and reputed Tech Universities of entire Asia, has been trapped in a loop of controversy over academic freedom. This unfortunate event happened over a denial of tenure to a Journalism Professor by NTU lately.

The Journalism Prof. Cherian George is said to be an outspoken professor for his open and fearless political comments. Cherian George was denied tenure last month. Tenure would have meant he that could not be sacked from his job without just cause.

George was previously denied tenure in 2009 when he was promoted to the position of associate professor, which was seen as unusual by local experts as academic promotions are normally accompanied by tenure.

An overseas assessor of his case, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen from the University of Cardiff in the United Kingdom in a tweet described George as “a true public intellectual with broad 'registers of impact' in Singapore and abroad”. She had been taught by George, “and he is eminently qualified for a tenure contract”. According to Wahl-Jorgensen, denying George tenure “makes Singapore and NTU look very bad” and raises “big question marks about international collaborations”.

Nanyang Technological University defended its tenure process in a statement released on 26 February. "NTU has a rigorous tenure process. All NTU faculty seeking tenure go through the same process. More than 1,000 faculty have gone through this process at NTU in the last six years and so far, more than 55% have been granted tenure," the statement said.

George joined NTU in 2004 and had previously been a political journalist on Singapore’s Straits Timesnewspaper.He has criticized the Singaporean government’s control of the media and policies of the ruling People’s Action Party.

A petition was launched by NTU students affirming George’s “stellar teaching credentials” and calling on NTU to explain the denial of tenure. Within days the petition had garnered over 700 signatures.

Now, Prof. Cherian George has taken up a job at a Hong Kong university. George revealed his new decision through personal blog that he had accepted the post of associate professor at Hong Kong Baptist University, known for its journalism department.

George is the author of two books, Contentious Journalism and the Internet, and Freedom from the Press. The second book criticizes the Singapore Government on freedom of Press.

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