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LCQ9: Community colleges of UGC-funded institutions

     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 (March 30):


     In its report on "Aspirations for the Higher Education System in Hong Kong" released in December last year, the University Grants Committee (UGC) recommended that "The community college operations of UGC-funded institutions should be completely separated from their parent institutions within three years of the acceptance of this recommendation".  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows from the academic year 2007-2008 to 2009-2010,

(i) the items for which each UGC-funded institution (the institution) provided subsidy annually to its community college (including items not charged at cost), and the amount of subsidy for each item; and

(ii) the fees paid annually by each community college to its parent institution for renting various facilities and hiring various services, and its surplus each year;

(b) whether it has assessed the impact of implementing the aforesaid recommendation of complete separation of the community colleges from their parent institutions (aforesaid recommendation) on the room for survival and financial situations of these community colleges;

(c) given that the Government has established the Start-up Loan Scheme (SLS) to provide loans to institutions offering full-time locally accredited self-financing post-secondary programmes for purposes including building campuses, of the number of projects under SLS to date involving the construction of community colleges' campuses within the main campuses of their parent institutions, as well as the respective names of the institutions concerned, the progress of these projects and the annual amounts of loan repayments;

(d) upon the implementation of the aforesaid recommendation, which parties will own the campuses mentioned in (c) and have the rights to use them; if the ownerships and rights are vested in the community colleges,

(i) whether the parent institutions will have to pay fees to the community colleges concerned for using these campuses in the future (e.g. using the venues for conducting classes or activities for their undergraduates); and

(ii) whether the parent institutions will violate the requirements of SLS because of using the facilities in these campuses; if so, whether the institutions need to apply to the Government or the relevant committees for changing the uses of these campuses; if not, of the reasons for that; and

(e) when the aforesaid recommendation is implemented, how the loans between the parent institutions and their community colleges and their surplus/deficit accounts will be dealt with, and whether the relationship between the teaching staff of the parent institutions and their community colleges as well as the parent institutions' responsibilities towards the students of their community colleges will be changed; if so, how the authorities will ensure a smooth transition in teaching work; if not, of the reasons for that?



     In its report entitled "Aspirations for the Higher Education System in Hong Kong" (the Report) submitted to the Education Bureau (EDB) in December 2010, the University Grants Committee (UGC) puts forward a number of recommendations, including the separation of community colleges from their parent institutions, which aims at enhancing the transparency of the financial relationship between publicly-funded institutions and their self-financing affiliates or units.  We are studying the Report's recommendations in detail and are in the process of further consulting the stakeholders of the post-secondary education sector with a view to coming to a decision on the recommendations within this year.

     My reply to the five-part question raised by Hon Cheung is as follows:

(a) Government funding provided to UGC-funded institutions through the UGC should only be used on UGC-funded programmes and activities, but not for operating self-financing programmes.  Therefore, UGC-funded institutions should not use UGC funds to subsidise self-financing sub-degree programmes offered by their community colleges.  

     According to information provided by UGC-funded institutions, no subsidies have been provided for items / activities organised by their community colleges over the past three academic years (i.e. from 2007/08 to 2009/10).  The amount of fees paid by each community college to its parent institution for renting facilities and hiring services, and the surplus / deficit recorded by each community college are set out at Annex 1.

(c) Since the introduction of the Start-up Loan Scheme (SLS), we have so far approved two loans for constructing college premises of the community colleges of UGC-funded institutions within the main campuses of their parent institutions.  Details are set out at Annex 2.

(d) The Government launches the SLS to support institutions offering self-financing post-secondary programmes by helping them construct new college premises and reprovision existing premises operating in sub-optimal environment, for example, by refurbishing vacant school premises allocated to them.  An institution applying for a start-up loan is required to submit a development proposal specifying the future use of the proposed college premises, including the programmes that will be operated in the premises.  For the cases mentioned in (c) above, the development proposals already specified that the college premises would be used by the community colleges to operate self-financing post-secondary programmes.

     Under the loan agreements, the premises should be operated in accordance with the arrangements specified in the development proposals.  If an institution wishes to make alternative arrangements for its completed premises, it is required to make an application to the EDB in advance.  When considering the application, the EDB will take into account various factors, such as the utilisation rate of the premises and the operation of the institution.  If the application is approved by the EDB and other users are allowed to use the premises, these users will normally be required to pay rent to the institution.

(b) and (e) We are studying in detail the Report's recommendations, including the feasibility of the recommendation of completely separating community colleges from their parent institutions, and its possible impact on community colleges, institutions, students and other parties concerned.  We are pleased to listen to the views of the stakeholders of the post-secondary education sector.  Our target is to come to a decision on the recommendations within this year.

Ends/Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:42


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