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LCQ8: Application fee and enrolment deposit of the courses offered by post-secondary institutions

     Following is a question by the Hon Sophie Leung Lau Yau-fun and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Michael Suen, in the Legislative Council today (July 6):


     At present, in respect of quite a number of the courses offered by post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong (including undergraduate programmes, full-time accredited self-financing sub-degree, degree and top-up degree programmes or other higher diploma programmes of the University Grants Committee-funded institutions), students need to pay an application fee of several hundred dollars to apply, and upon admission, they have to pay enrolment deposit or first instalment of several thousand dollars of tuition fee within a short time. Although the Student Financial Assistance Agency provides students with various assistance schemes, students may not apply for the assistance until they are enrolled. They are also required to undergo complicated means test process, and it may take a long time before such assistance is granted to the students. Until then, students need to pay their own application fee, enrolment deposit and tuition fee.  For some students, however, it is not easy for them to pay a one-off enrolment deposit of several thousand dollars, and some young persons are unable to further their studies because they cannot afford such payments. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) what guidelines have been put in place by the authorities at present on the charging of application fees and enrolment deposits in respect of post-secondary or tertiary programmes by various institutions, and whether any ceiling for such fees has been set; whether it knows the levels of application fees and enrolment deposits for various programmes and whether such fees can be refunded;

(b) whether it knows the annual number of students who had not been admitted in the past three years because they were not able to pay the aforesaid enrolment deposit;

(c) whether there are measures to help students who cannot afford the fees concerned due to financial difficulties to pay the application fees and enrolment deposits (e.g. by providing them with small loans which can be granted quickly and repaid after students receive the assistance); and

(d) given that many students usually apply for several local and overseas institutions concurrently to increase their chances of enrolment to their favourite programmes and because the institutions announce admission results on different dates, such students will pay enrolment deposits in advance once they receive the admission notices, so that they will not lose their eligibility, and they will wait for all application results before deciding which institutions to choose, whereas the institutions will normally not refund the enrolment deposits, meaning that students need to suffer the loss of several thousand dollars or even tens of thousand dollars and the institutions will in a way increase their revenues, what measures (including taking the lead to discuss with various institutions to agree on the dates for announcing new admissions each year, so that students may have simultaneous access to the admission results of the institutions, thus facilitating them to select their most favourite programmes) the Government has to address the aforesaid situation, so as to avoid students having to pay additional enrolment deposits, and save the institutions' need to make replacement arrangements because some students give up their places after they choose to study in other institutions?



(a) Post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong enjoy a high degree of autonomy in academic development and administration matters. Each institution will devise its admission arrangements in the light of its own circumstances, including deciding whether to charge an application fee and enrolment deposit and setting the levels of the fees. The Government has not imposed a ceiling on such fees. According to the information provided by the institutions, currently the application fees charged by institutions generally range from about $50 to $200. The application fees for programmes of the eight institutions funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC) and the Open University of Hong Kong applied through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS), and some individual non-JUPAS degree and top-up degree programmes are set at $420 or below. Individual institutions may reduce or waive the application fee under specific circumstances (e.g. applications submitted online or during walk-in application day and admission seminar). As regards enrolment deposits, they usually range from about $5,000 to an amount equivalent to the first instalment of the tuition fee. Enrolment deposits paid will generally be refunded to students after admission or counted towards part of the tuition fee. Under normal circumstances, if an applicant withdraws his application or gives up a reserved place, the application fee or enrolment deposit will not be refunded.

(b) and (c) According to institutions, there has not been a case of a student being refused admission as a result of his inability to pay an enrolment deposit. In general, if institutions come across a case whereby a student cannot afford to pay an application fee or enrolment deposit due to financial difficulties, most of them will exercise discretion depending on merits of individual cases by for example, allowing students to defer payment of enrolment deposits. To help students in financial hardship, the Student Financial Assistance Agency works closely with the institutions to render assistance to the students concerned. They will vet relevant applications for financial assistance schemes expeditiously to ensure that students will not be deprived of the opportunity to further studies owing to financial difficulties.

(d) Apart from the applications received through the JUPAS, institutions will receive applications direct from students and admit such students to their programmes. In other words, a student may receive offers from more than one programme. Payment of enrolment deposit is therefore part of the registration arrangement.  The main purpose is to minimise the wastage of places and not as a means to increase revenue.  Furthermore, institutions will not require students to pay an enrolment deposit or tuition fee immediately upon admission. A due date for payment will usually be fixed to give students time to consider.  

     In 2010 or before, students admitted to sub-degree and degree programmes offered by institutions are mainly candidates sitting for the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) (i.e. Secondary 5 school leavers) and Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) (i.e. Secondary 7 school leavers). For the former, institutions will normally issue admission offers to students on or after the date of announcement of the HKCEE results, and the due dates for payment of enrolment deposits differ among institutions.  For the latter, many institutions will issue admission offers to students on or after the date of announcement of the HKALE results.  However, in order to take into account the results of the JUPAS, as far as possible.  Institutions will try to set the due date for payment of enrolment deposits after the announcement date of the JUPAS results.

     Starting from 2012, the HKCEE will no longer be held and school leavers will sit for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination and the HKALE. Both categories of students may choose to join the JUPAS. As admission arrangements are matters falling within the scope of academic development and administrative affairs which institutions enjoy a high degree of autonomy, we will invite institutions to strengthen communication and discuss among themselves whether improvements can be made to such arrangements.

Ends/Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Issued at HKT 12:07


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