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LCQ19: Costs for University Grants Committee-funded institutions expanding their campus space

    Following is a question by the Hon Cheung Man-kwong and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (January 23):


     It has been reported that the Government allocated $3.4 billion to assist University Grants Committee-funded institutions in expanding their campus space for supporting the implementation of the normative four-year undergraduate programme under the new academic structure for senior secondary education and higher education (the "3+3+4 academic structure").  It has also been reported that due to the rise in construction costs, the costs of such projects have continued to increase.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the progress and expenditure of the above projects as at the end of last year, and the progress and expenditure anticipated for the coming year;

(b) whether it knows the factors causing the increase or decrease of the project costs last year, and of the factors it anticipates will affect those costs this year, and the respective expenditure items which had been and will be affected and the percentage of the changes;

(c) given the rise in construction costs, whether the Government has assessed if the above provision of $3.4 billion is still sufficient for various institutions to carry out the above projects; if such an assessment has been made, of the results; if the assessment results indicate that the provision is insufficient to cover the project costs, of the difference in the amounts concerned; if such an assessment has not been made, the reasons for that;

(d) whether the Government will bear the expenditure which exceeds the project estimates; if not, how the Government will assist the institutions concerned in meeting the additional expenditure; and

(e) of the monitoring measures to ensure that the above projects can be completed on schedule, in order to facilitate the smooth implementation of the "3+3+4 academic structure"?


     The implementation of the new four-year normative undergraduate programme under the "3+3+4" academic structure will result in an increase in overall undergraduate enrolment at the University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded institutions.  As a result, institutions will need to expand their campus facilities to provide a suitable teaching and learning environment in support of the new academic programmes.  The UGC has been working closely with the institutions, with a common goal to ensure that new facilities for implementation of "3+3+4" will be ready for occupation by September 2012.  Our reply to the questions raised is set out below.

(a) and (b) The UGC-funded institutions have drawn up plans for new buildings and facilities (such as classrooms, teaching laboratories, student amenities, etc.) required for the purpose of the implementation of "3+3+4".  The Administration has earmarked funding for a total of 12 capital works projects (at Annex).  Amongst these projects, funding for the project "Extension to the Existing Academic Building" of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology at an estimated cost of $90.8 million (in money-of-the-day (MOD) prices) was approved by the Finance Committee (FC) of the Legislative Council (LegCo) on January 11, 2008.  As for the other 11 projects, institutions are now working on the detailed design with a view to seeking funding approval from the Public Works Sub-Committee (PWSC) and FC of the LegCo within the 2007-08 and 2008-09 legislative sessions.  As such, detailed cost estimates of individual projects have yet to be finalized at this stage.

(c) and (d) In general, the UGC considers the institutions' capital works projects with reference to the advice of the Director of Architectural Services (D Arch S) who serves as its Technical Adviser in respect of the technical and costing issues of the capital works projects of the UGC-funded institutions.  D Arch S will examine, inter alia, the contractual and financial conditions of the projects to ensure that they represent good professional practice and are in line with the principles and practices adopted in Government building projects.

     The Administration recognises the importance of the "3+3+4" reform and is committed to earmarking adequate resources to take forward the reform, including funding for construction of additional academic buildings.  While the Administration is mindful of the need for the UGC-funded sector to try to adhere to the original estimate of $3.4 billion to ensure the best use of public resources, we appreciate that it was the best estimate drawn up in 2004.  Under the established practice, before submission of funding proposals to PWSC, the Administration would update the cost estimate of capital works projects to MOD prices on the basis of the Government's latest forecast of trend rate of change in the prices of public sector building and construction output.  In examining the detailed cost requirements of individual capital works projects, we will consider the practical needs of the institutions and professional advice from D Arch S.  Throughout the process, we will maintain close liaison with the institutions.

     The UGC's Notes on Procedures provide guidance on the general principles and procedures governing capital works projects wholly or partly funded by the UGC.  In the event that the anticipated final expenditure of a project may exceed the approved project estimate, the concerned institution may apply for exceptional and justifiable additional funds before acceptance of tender.  The UGC and D Arch S will examine the revised expenditure of the project estimates submitted by the institution and consider the need for seeking approval of additional funds from the Administration or the FC as appropriate.

(e) The UGC has set up a "3+3+4" Group to examine matters associated with the implementation of "3+3+4" by the UGC-funded institutions, including the planning and implementation progress of capital works projects.  The UGC will maintain close liaison with the UGC-funded institutions to ensure the timely completion of the "3+3+4"-related capital works projects by the institutions.

Ends/Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Issued at HKT 15:45


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