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LCQ8: Hong Kong Baptist University

     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 (November 17):


     I have received complaints from teaching staff members and representatives of staff unions of the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) querying that there are irregularities in the appointments and dismissals of senior staff by the University and the Council (including the appointment of a Vice-President in 2006 and the dismissal of an Assistant Registrar early this year, etc.), the use of public funds, and in awarding degrees of HKBU to graduates of the United International College (UIC) which was jointly established by HKBU and the Beijing Normal University.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council, if it knows:

(a) whether HKBU has an established procedure that selection of senior staff must be considered by a selection committee established by the Council and approved finally by the Council before appointments are made; given that it was reported that HKBU bypassed the selection committee and endorsed the appointment of a Vice-President in 2006, whether such a practise was in line with the established procedure, and why the appointment was not processed by the selection committee when such a committee had already been established; how the University ensures that the procedure of appointing senior staff is fair and just;

(b) whether the University Grants Committee (UGC)- funded institutions may appoint, using public funds, remunerated teaching staff from local post-secondary institutions or those in other regions to concurrently serve in full-time, part-time or any form of positions; if not, how UGC deals with those UGC-funded institutions that have made such appointments; if they can, of the criteria of making such appointments, and the UGC-funded institutions that had made such appointments in the past five years, the number of teaching staff involved, payroll expenses and the reasons;

(c) whether UIC has, since its establishment, used any funding from UGC (including loans provided by HKBU); if it has, of the details including the amount involved, loan items and repayment arrangements, etc.;

(d) given that it was reported that UIC had appointed the former President of HKBU as its President, which unit or person determined the remuneration of the President of UIC, and the amount of UGC funding involved in the payroll;

(e) given that under section 23 of the Hong Kong Baptist University Ordinance (Cap. 1126), the award of degrees by HKBU itself under authorisation should follow the statutes made under the Ordinance, including establishing a Senate, as well as the Senate vetting and approving the various statutes to regulate matters relating to curriculum and academic matters, etc. whether UIC has followed the relevant statutory procedure of HKBU at present before awarding the degrees of HKBU to graduates of UIC; if it has, of a list of the contents of the relevant procedure according to the scope of work and functions of the Senate under the legislation; if not, why graduates of UIC can be awarded degrees equivalent to those of HKBU when it does not have the statutory self-accrediting status and its accrediting procedure is inconsistent with that of HKBU; and whether UGC allows institutions which are linked with universities having statutory self-accrediting status in Hong Kong to award local degrees without following statutory procedure;

(f) whether HKBU has an independent monitoring mechanism at present, so as to ensure that there is no role conflict when the University handles complaint and appeal cases lodged by dismissed teaching staff, and the handling procedure is fair and just; and

(g) the numbers of UGC-funded institutions that had provided monetary compensation with public funds to staff who were dismissed in each of the past five years, together with a breakdown by name of institution and the amount involved?



     The eight institutions funded through the University Grants Committee (UGC) are autonomous statutory bodies established pursuant to their respective ordinances.  They enjoy, within the restraints of the laws of Hong Kong, considerable institutional autonomy in a number of areas such as curriculum design, selection and recruitment of staff and students, and internal allocation and management of finances.  While enjoying autonomy, institutions have to comply with the UGC's Notes on Procedures, which set out, inter alia, that institutions should only apply UGC funds within the ambit of UGC-fundable activities, and that UGC-funded activities and non-UGC funded activities should be separately accounted for and subject to financial audit by external auditors and value for money audits by the Director of Audit.  Heads of institutions are required to provide a Certificate of Accountability to the UGC annually to confirm that public funds allocated via the UGC had been spent in accordance with the UGC regulations and guidelines.

     In relation to selection and recruitment of staff, unless expressly provided for in the relevant Ordinance, the Council of an institution has the authority to decide the appropriate recruitment procedures, having regard to the operational need of the institution concerned.  On the handling of staff grievances, institutions have established their own grievance handling procedures taking into account their different policies, practises, values and cultures.  The UGC has completed a research on the best practises in ten overseas institutions, and shared with the UGC-funded institutions and the LegCo Panel on Education the findings and the "best practise package".  Institutions have all agreed to keep their grievance procedures under review and consider implementing the recommendations made by the UGC.

     Our reply to the specific questions is set out below.

(a) Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) has advised us that according to the principles of openness and fairness, HKBU has established policy guidelines and procedures on the appointment of senior management staff.  The Council is the approving authority of the appointments of the President and Vice-Chancellor and Vice-Presidents. In 2006, the Council approved, after an open and rigorous selection process, a recommendation from the Search Committee (appointed by the Council) to appoint two new Vice-Presidents for filling the upcoming vacancies.  The exercise was conducted in accordance with established procedures and guidelines.

(b) The eight UGC-funded institutions appoint visiting staff who are scholars on sabbatical leave/secondment from institutions in other regions for academic exchange/research collaboration. Upon taking up the appointment at the UGC-funded institutions, the visiting staff will fulfil their duties as stipulated in the employment agreements.  The remuneration arrangements between the visiting staff and their parent institutions and the UGC-funded institutions' decisions to appoint the visiting staff are two independent issues.  Hence the UGC-funded institutions do not keep information on such remuneration arrangements.  

(c) HKBU has confirmed that since the establishment of the United International College (UIC), HKBU has not utilised UGC funding but has, with the approval of the HKBU Council, provided UIC with HK$150 million from the private (non-UGC) funds of the University for the construction of the UIC campus and as part of its start-up costs.  

(d) The salary of the President of UIC was approved by the Council of UIC.  It has not involved any use of public funds from the UGC.

(e) According to HKBU, the University has established a rigorous Quality Assurance (QA) protocol which also applies to the monitoring of academic programmes at UIC.  The accreditation process for UIC programmes is consistent with that adopted by HKBU.  Proposals for any new programmes to be delivered at UIC must be accredited by a panel consisting of external experts from around the world.  The accreditation report is then vetted by HKBU's Quality Assurance Committee (QAC) before it is forwarded to HKBU's Senate for approval.  All major changes to the programmes at UIC, including change of titles, units for graduation, graduation requirements etc. must be vetted by HKBU's QAC before forwarding to HKBU's Senate for approval.  The QA protocol also governs the approval procedures for various minor changes to the academic programmes at UIC, and teaching evaluation process at the end of each semester.

     HKBU has advised us that all graduation and admission matters including honours classification have to be submitted by UIC to the Senate of HKBU for formal approval.  In addition, to ensure consistency with the rules and procedures at HKBU, the University maintains a close monitoring of the operations and admission standards at UIC by conducting regular (every 18 months) on-site Institutional Reviews (IR) at UIC.  IR Reports and UIC responses are submitted via HKBU's QAC to the Senate for approval.  To ensure quality, the University assumes full control of the accreditation and QA procedures for all the HKBU degree programmes offered at UIC.  

     All eight UGC-funded institutions are self-accrediting, and their first degree and above programmes (regardless of funding source or location) are subject to quality audit of the Quality Assurance Council established under the aegis of the UGC.  The purpose of auditing programmes outside Hong Kong is to examine if the quality of student learning is the same as in the corresponding or similar programmes offered in Hong Kong.  In the case of HKBU, the quality audit also covers UIC activities.

(f) Service termination of academic/administrative staff on substantiated appointment will be considered by an independent Committee on Termination of Appointment set up under the Personnel Committee of the University Council.  The Committee is chaired by a lay member of the Personnel Committee, and comprises, inter alia, at least one other lay member of the Personnel Committee.  Any appeal against the decision of service termination made by the Committee will be handled by the University Council.  Similarly, for service termination of academic/teaching and administrative staff on contract, the University will set up an independent University Review Panel chaired by a Vice-President and comprises at least four other independent senior academic/teaching and/or administrative staff members to adjudicate on the case.  A staff member who is not satisfied with the decision of service termination can appeal to the President and Vice-Chancellor who will consider if there are "procedural irregularities" or any "new evidences/arguments" presented and could then adopt measures as he considers appropriate under the circumstances in examining the appeal.
(g) According to the eight UGC-funded institutions, payments to staff members upon termination of service in the past five years were made in accordance with the contractual and legal requirements.  No additional compensation was involved.

Ends/Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Issued at HKT 14:46


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