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LCQ8: Self-financing programmes offered by 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 (December 7):


     The University Grants Committee (UGC) has gradually withdrawn its subvention for sub-degree and taught postgraduate programmes of UGC-funded institutions since the 2004-2005 academic year, and the number of self-financing programmes (including sub-degree, undergraduate and taught master degree programmes) offered by these institutions in recent years has increased substantially.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of subsidised places and the amounts of funding involved in the programmes which have been subject to the funding cut of the various UGC-funded institutions in each year since the 2004-2005 academic year;

(b) whether it knows the respective numbers, student intakes as well as tuition fee incomes of various types of full-time and part-time self-financing programmes offered by the internal departments of the various UGC-funded institutions or their affiliates (e.g. community colleges, etc.) in each year since the 2004-2005 academic year, broken down by the level of study;

(c) whether it knows the respective numbers of full-time and part-time teaching and non-teaching staff employed by the internal departments of the institutions or their affiliates offering self-financing programmes in (b) for such self-financing programmes as well as the related payroll expenses incurred in each year since the 2004-2005 academic year;

(d) whether it knows the respective surplus/ deficit of the internal departments of the institutions or their affiliates offering self-financing programmes in (b) in each year since the 2004-2005 academic year; the financial arrangements with their parent institutions; whether they are required to pay any fee to their parent institutions in respect of operating the self-financing programmes; if so, of the details, together with a breakdown of the payments by the relevant item; whether they are required to submit the profits from the self-financing programmes to their parent institutions; if so, how the institutions use the relevant profits; whether the parent institutions need to subsidise the losses of the self-financing programmes;

(e) what regulatory measures the authorities have in place to ensure that while the institutions enjoy autonomy they will not incessantly expand their self-financing departments in order to create new sources of income;

(f) whether the authorities have the power to regulate the revenues received by the UGC-funded institutions and their uses, including the profits made by their self-financing departments;

(g) how the authorities regulate the quality of various self-financing programmes (including the exit standards of students, the qualifications of lecturers and the teacher-and-students ratios, etc.) to ensure that the qualifications conferred by them meet the standards and are not for making up the numbers; and

(h) whether it knows the complaints mechanism in place if any student is dissatisfied with various self-financing programmes offered by the UGC-funded institutions; the respective numbers of complaints received by the various institutions in the past five years relating to their self-financing programmes, together with a breakdown by the reasons for the complaints?



(a) In response to the review report entitled "Higher Education in Hong Kong" published by the University Grants Committee (UGC) in 2002, the Government accepted the recommendation that most taught postgraduate (TPg) programmes should be run on a self-financing basis to reflect the benefits to the students' own career development.  The Government also agreed that sub-degree (SD) programmes in the UGC-funded sector, with the exception of programmes that meet specific criteria, should be put on a self-financing basis gradually.

     The phasing-out of relevant UGC-funded TPg has been basically completed by the 2008/09 academic year.  The savings from TPg programmes have also been ploughed back to the UGC sector to support worthwhile initiatives such as the creation of senior year places and research postgraduate places.

     As regards SD programmes, the places in the UGC sector are phased out over a longer period.  The savings from phasing SD places in the UGC sector are ploughed back to the SD sector as a whole, including enhancing the financial assistance for students of the self-financing post-secondary education sector.  It is noteworthy that, there has been an increase in the number of publicly-funded SD places offered by the Vocational Training Council (VTC), to complement the expansion of the self-financing post-secondary sector.  Overall speaking, the enrolment in publicly-funded SD programmes (offered by VTC, UGC-funded institutions and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts) has increased from around 22 200 in 2003/04 to around 24 700 in 2010/11.  

     The number of TPg and SD places in the UGC sector phased out and the amount of funding involved are set out at Annex A.

 (b), (c), (d) and (f) The eight higher education institutions funded through the UGC are autonomous statutory bodies, each with its own ordinance and governing Council.  They enjoy academic freedom and a high degree of institutional autonomy in managing its internal affairs, including selection of staff, selection of students, curricula and academic standards, acceptance of research programmes and allocation of funds within the institution.

     UGC-funded institutions are required to keep separate financial accounts for the publicly-funded and self-financing operations, and are not allowed to use public funds to subsidise the self-financing operations. In general, the institutions proper do not provide any subsidy to self-financed units if the latter incur deficit.  However, some of the institutions (i.e. Lingnan University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Institute of Education and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University) report that they would deploy private funds to provide subsidy/ loan under exceptional cases or in case of proven financial difficulties.  The deployment of surplus arising from its self-financing activities is subject to individual institutions' internal policies and guidelines.

     The Administration and the UGC fully respect the autonomy of the institutions in this regard.  That said, we expect that the institutions should ensure that self-financing activities do not detract from the core work of the institutions, have distinct separation of resources from publicly funded programmes and are financially viable and sustainable.

     The number and actual intakes of self-financing programmes offered by the eight UGC-funded institutions (including their affiliates) are set out at Annex B.

     Given the time constraint, institutions are only able to provide information for the recent three academic years and the information is presented where available at the following annexes:  

Annex C   Tuition fee incomes
Annex D   The number of academic and
          non-academic staff engaged
          in self-financed programmes
          offered by the institutions
          proper, community colleges
          and other self-financed
          education arms, and related
          staff costs
Annex E   Surplus/ Deficit generated
          from self-financed programmes
          offered by the institutions
          proper, community colleges and
          other self-financed education arms.
Annex F   The amount of fees paid by the
          institutions proper's academic
          departments offering self-financed
          programmes, community colleges and
          other self-financed education arms
          to their parent institutions

     Please note that the information is compiled by individual institutions using their internal systems.  Since the basis is not necessarily consistent among different systems, the figures reported by different institutions are not directly comparable.

(e) and (g) The Government attaches great importance to the quality of the self-financing post-secondary education.  UGC-funded institutions must ensure that all programmes (including publicly-funded and self-financing programmes) must successfully complete their internal quality assurance mechanism and meet all relevant criteria including entry requirements, exit standard and the quality and standards of teaching and learning.

     As an additional measure to safeguard and promote the quality of UGC-funded institutions and their activities, the UGC established in 2007 the Quality Assurance Council (QAC) to assure the quality of their educational provision (however funded) at first degree level and above levels leading to a Hong Kong award.  One of the QAC's core operational tasks is to conduct quality audits of individual UGC-funded institutions.  QAC audits examine all aspects of an institution's activities which contribute to the quality of student learning such as programme design, approval and review, as well as teaching, assessment and student support.

     At the SD level, we have also devised the Common Descriptors for the Associate Degree and Higher Diploma programmes for compliance with an aim to enhance the common standard of the curriculum, entrance requirements, exit qualifications, and especially the admission criteria and exit level.  The quality of self-financing SD programmes offered by the UGC-funded institutions is assured by the Joint Quality Review Committee (JQRC).  In our response to the Higher Education Review conducted by UGC in 2010, we reaffirm our view that all post-secondary institutions should be subject to some form of regular external scrutiny in the context of quality assurance in order to enhance quality and accountability.  As demonstrated by the QAC model, self-accrediting status per se should not be a hurdle to external audits or reviews on an institutional or programme area basis.  We therefore propose that periodic quality audits should be conducted by Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Acadmic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ) on community colleges or self-financing operation at SD level and below under the aegis of UGC-funded institutions.

(h) As student complaints can be dealt with at different levels (department, school/ faculty, and central), the institutions do not have readily available figures on the numbers of and reasons for students' complaints in the past five years specifically related to the self-financed programmes.  As far as institutions proper are concerned, all UGC-funded institutions have in place mechanisms to gauge student feedback and to handle students' complaints, including those relating to the programmes offered by the institutions regardless of whether the programmes are UGC-funded or self-financed.

Ends/Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:20


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