HKU vice-chancellor Peter Mathieson (left) has resigned, says the university's council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung (right). Photo: EyePress/Alan Siu

University of Hong Kong’s vice chancellor Peter Mathieson has resigned from his position, i-Cable TV reported on Thursday, citing HKU’s council chairman Arthur Li Kwok-cheung.

Li was quoted as saying by the local television channel that Mathieson has been appointed as the vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh.

On Thursday, the University of Edinburgh announced on its website the appointment of Mathieson as its next Principal and Vice-chancellor. It said the starting date will be confirmed in due course.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the University of Hong Kong and I now look forward to leading the University of Edinburgh forward into its next chapter,” Mathieson said in press release.

Before the Englishman took office at HKU in April 2014, he was the dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Bristol. His contract with HKU is supposed to end in 2019.

After the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement broke out in September 2014, Mathieson and Joseph Sung, vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, visited the students at their camp in Admiralty. The duo said they were willing to help the occupiers and the government re-open dialogue.

In March 2015, Li was appointed by Hong Kong’s leader, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, as a member of the HKU council. He reportedly led a group of pro-Beijing academics to reject the appointment of Johannes Chan Manmun, former dean of the Faculty of Law, as a pro-vicechancellor of HKU due to his close ties with colleague Benny Tai Yiu-ting, a co-founder of the Occupy Central movement.

The case raised concerns about the university’s academic freedoms.

In late 2015, Li was appointed by Leung as the chairman of HKU’s governing council despite opposition from both student and alumni groups. Li faced protests in his first council meeting in January 2016.