LCQ2: Continuing Education Fund

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (February 25):


     At present, adults enrolled in approved continuing education and training courses may apply for subsidies from the Continuing Education Fund (CEF). Each applicant may only obtain such subsidy once in a lifetime, with the amount capped at 80% of the course fees or HK$10,000, whichever is the less. It is noted that master degree and postgraduate diploma courses, the fees of which (especially the self-financed ones) are very high, are not included in the list of approved courses.  As a result, many of those who aspired to pursue further studies have given up the idea. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it will increase the maximum amount of subsidy receivable by each applicant and extend the scope of CEF to cover higher education courses;

(b) what mechanism is in place to monitor the quality of the approved courses; and

(c) what mechanism is in place to safeguard CEF against deception by unscrupulous people?



(a) and (b) The Government set up the $5 billion Continuing Education Fund (CEF) in 2002 to encourage the local population to pursue continuing education. Hong Kong residents aged between 18 and 65 are eligible applicants under the CEF. They may claim reimbursement of 80% of the fees of any CEF registered course upon successful completion of the course, up to a ceiling of $10,000 for each applicant.

     Separately, individuals pursuing eligible continuing and professional education courses provided in Hong Kong by registered schools, non-local universities and professional and recognised training bodies may apply for loans to meet their tuition fees under the Non-means-tested Loan Scheme administered by the Student Financial Assistance Agency. The maximum amount of the loan is the tuition fees payable for the academic year.

     The current cap on the amount of subsidy receivable by each applicant under the CEF is considered appropriate, and the Administration has no plan to introduce any change. Learners with financial needs may apply for loans under the Non-means-tested Loan Scheme to help pay their tuition fees.

     The future direction of the CEF was fully considered in a review of the CEF completed in May 2007 which concluded that further expansion of the CEF should tie in with, and support, the development of the Qualifications Framework (QF). Before the QF was launched in May 2008, education and training courses falling within eight specified domains might be registered as reimbursable courses under the CEF after having been assessed by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ). The eight domains are business services, financial services, logistics, tourism, creative industry, design, language#, and interpersonal and intrapersonal skills for the workplace.

     Upon the implementation of the QF in May 2008, all new courses are required to undergo a formal accreditation exercise and be uploaded onto the Qualifications Register before they could be registered under the CEF. Courses designed in accordance with the Specifications of Competency Standards developed by the respective Industry Training Advisory Committees under the QF but falling outside the eight specified domains may also be registered under the CEF.

     Course providers may apply for registration of their courses or modules of a programme, including those at post-graduate level, under the CEF if they are able to meet the above registration requirements. Courses registered under the Fund are subject to audit inspections by the HKCAAVQ to ensure that they are operated in full compliance with the conditions of approval of the CEF.

(c) Apart from audit inspections conducted by the HKCAAVQ on course contents as mentioned above, the Office of the Continuing Education Fund (OCEF) also monitors the operation of course providers under the CEF.  In addition to authentication of students' attendance records, course assessment results and other reimbursement related matters, the OCEF also conducts surprise inspections to ensure that course providers fully comply with the conditions of approval of the CEF. A warning will be issued to the course provider in case of any non-compliance.  If the breach is serious or repetitive in nature, the Administration will consider de-registering the concerned course(s) from the list of CEF reimbursable courses to safeguard the interests of learners. In case of any suspected criminal activities, such as deception or bribery, the Administration will immediately refer the case to the relevant law enforcement agencies for follow-up.

# At present, languages courses in English, Chinese (written), Putonghua, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Spanish are eligible for registration under the CEF.

Ends/Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Issued at HKT 14:45