LCQ1: Accord priority to quality assurance when promoting the development of the self-financing higher education sector

     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (June 9):


     The Government has indicated that it will actively develop self-financing universities to address the shortage of post-secondary places and six sites, including a site of over 100,000 square metres at the former Queen Hill's Camp, have been reserved for this purpose.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the assessment and vetting procedure required for education institutions to be recognised as universities;

(b) given that it took Shue Yan College more than 10 years from application to being upgraded as a university, whether a similar duration is required for vetting and approving applications made by other education institutions; if so, of the measures adopted by the authorities for guaranteeing the standard and quality of the universities when education institutions and school sponsoring bodies request to shorten the time for vetting and approving their applications; and

(c) given that the Government has indicated that the development at the Lok Ma Chau Loop (the Loop) will focus on higher education, whether the higher education to be developed in that area will operate in a self-financing or publicly-funded mode, and how many school places will be offered; whether it has considered if using all the six reserved sites and the Loop for the development of higher education will lead to an oversupply of school places; what plan the authorities have to prevent the problem, as well as how they will coordinate the use of such sites?



(a) Under the existing legislation, except for those institutions established pursuant to their respective ordinances (note 1), any institutions seeking to award local degrees must register as a post-secondary college under the Post Secondary Colleges Ordinance (Cap. 320) (the Ordinance).

     Before registration, an institution is required to go through an Institutional Review by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ), to ensure that its governance structure, academic standards and quality, teacher quality, quality assurance mechanisms and financial condition, etc, meet the requirements.  Subsequently, every degree programme that a registered post secondary college proposes to offer is subject to a separate Programme Validation process to ensure that its academic standard is up to degree level.  Finally, the institution is also required to obtain the approval of the Chief Executive in Council (CE-in-Council) in accordance with the Ordinance before it can award degree for the programme concerned.

     Generally speaking, after an institution has been approved to operate degree programmes, the programmes are subject to Programme Revalidation at five-year intervals.  With the degree programmes having completed at least two cycles of Programme Revalidation and a proven track record in the areas of the validated programmes, an institution may apply to the HKCAAVQ for Programme Area Accreditation (PAA) status in the same areas of study.  With PAA status, an institution may offer new programmes and award qualifications in the respective programme areas without the need for individual programmes to undergo separate validation by the HKCAAVQ.

     Upon acquiring PAA status, an institution may make an application for the university title to the CE-in-Council under the Ordinance.  When considering an application, the CE-in-Council will take into account its specific circumstances and the institution's internal governance, quality assurance mechanisms and research capability, etc, before deciding whether the institution should be granted the university title.

(b) For an institution to offer self-financing degree programmes and be upgraded into a university, it involves a due process and the time required varies from institution to institution.  The most crucial factor is teaching quality, which is subject to stringent academic accreditation and has to be confirmed by a proven track record.

     With regard to academic accreditation, the HKCAAVQ will make professional judgment based on the merits of each institution.  It treats all institutions alike and will not change the accreditation timeframe or criteria to make allowances for the background of individual institution.

(c) On the development of the Lok Ma Chau Loop (the Loop), the governments of Hong Kong and Shenzhen initially considered that higher education could be the leading land use in the Loop, complemented with high-tech research and development facilities, as well as cultural and creative industries.  Based on this intent of co-operation, the two governments commenced the Planning and Engineering Study on Development of Lok Ma Chau Loop in June 2009.  The study is expected to be completed by the end of 2011.  The present thinking is that the higher education to be developed in the Loop will operate in a self-financing mode.  As regards the number of places to be provided, it will depend on the findings of the study and the sector's interest in development.  At this stage, we do not have any specific targets on the number of places to be provided.

     We cannot emphasise too much the importance of quality assurance in the development of education.  It is not our objective to provide a large number of self-financing degree places within a short period of time.  In promoting the development of the self-financing higher education sector, we will continue to adopt a prudent approach and accord priority to quality assurance.

Note 1: At present, institutions established pursuant to their respective specific ordinances include the eight University Grants Committee-funded institutions, the Open University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Ends/Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Issued at HKT 12:39