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LCQ6: City University of Hong Kong to reduce intake places of self-financing top-up degree programmes

     Following is a question by the Hon Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Education, Mr Kenneth Chen, in the Legislative Council today (January 11):


     It has been reported that the City University of Hong Kong ("CityU") will substantially reduce the number of self-financing articulation places for sub-degree holders from 692 in this academic year to 90 in the next academic year.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether it knows the details of CityU's substantial reduction in self-financing articulation places; whether it has assessed the impact on the students of sub-degree programmes articulating to degree programmes; whether the existing policy allows tertiary institutions to decide completely on their own the reduction in self-financing articulation places without consulting the education authorities in advance;

(b) given that CityU has not officially announced the aforesaid decision, and the prospectus on some of its sub-degree programmes still states that articulation to those degree programmes which will reduce the number of places is possible, whether the authorities regulate the dissemination of information relating to university programmes; how they deal with dissemination of misleading information by the universities; and how they protect the affected students; and

(c) given that CityU will set up a school of veterinary medicine ("vet school") and run veterinary degree programmes on a self-financing basis, and while CityU claims that other programmes will not be affected, some students have pointed out that some floors of Academic 2 and To Yuen Building will be converted into facilities for the vet school, which in effect will reduce the space for other faculties, whether the authorities will request CityU to clarify if the establishment of the vet school and reduction in self-financing articulation places are related; given that the resources required for the provision of the existing self-financing articulation places are far less than those for the places of the vet school, thereby enabling more young people to have the opportunity to receive tertiary education, whether the authorities will request CityU to review afresh its policy on resource allocation?


Acting President,

(a) & (b) Same as other tertiary institutions funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC), the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) is an independent statutory body that enjoys academic freedom and high autonomy in academic planning and internal resource allocation.  There are established in-house mechanisms for such matters as the monitoring of self-financing programmes and quality assurance in these institutions.

     We have enquired about CityU's decision to reduce the intake places of self-financing top-up degree programmes.  According to CityU, one of the academic goals set out in its "2010-2015 Strategic Plan", its long-term development blueprint, is "to control [its] non-UGC undergraduate enrolment to ensure quality and to fulfil [its] commitments of accountability to [its] undergraduate students so that available resources are sufficient to provide them with an outstanding educational experience".  CityU has been progressively reducing the number of intake places for its part-time self-financing top-up degree programmes from 934 in the 2007/08 academic year to 60 in 2012/13 academic year.  For self-financing full-time programmes, the number of intake places has remained at some 200 since 2007/08 academic year.  It would be reduced to 30 in 2012/13 academic year following CityU Senate's decision in late October 2011.  The aim is to focus its self-financing degree programmes only on selective academic areas which will be critical to the further development of Hong Kong society and CityU's professional education.

     CityU has advised that it announced the information about the 2012/13 self-financing top-up degree programme offerings and uploaded the programme details onto its official website on 7 November 2011, following the Senate's approval of the proposal to reduce the number of self-financing undergraduate places in late October 2011.  The Community College of the City University of Hong Kong (CCCU) also advised that the admission information about the 2012/13 sub-degree programmes was updated and uploaded onto its website in early December 2011.  In addition, the CCCU management held a meeting with its Associate Degree student representatives on 25 November 2011 to inform them of the planned reduction in CityU's self-financing top-up degree places. CCCU also introduced other top-up degree programmes to the students in an effort to widening their articulation opportunities.

     We appreciate the public's concern over CityU's reduction in self-financing top-up degree programme places.  According to the UGC Notes on Procedures, institutions enjoy academic freedom and considerable institutional autonomy but this does not exempt them from public interest and criticism.  Therefore, while enjoying high autonomy in academic planning and internal resource allocation, institutions should also be mindful of students' and public's interests, duly consider stakeholders' views and be held accountable for their decisions.  As such, the Government and the UGC will relay public concern to CityU, and urge it to take into account the interests of students and the public, consult stakeholders before making any decision in the future to expand or scale down its self-financing programmes, and disseminate relevant information promptly.  In addition, to help students affected in the present case, CityU should strengthen career counselling and support services for these students, maintain close communication with them and address their concerns properly.

     Regarding articulation for sub-degree holders, I must point out that a sub-degree qualification is a worthwhile standalone qualification which prepares students for both further studies and employment.  The Government will continue to promote the parallel development of the publicly-funded sector and the self-financing sector, with a view to providing multiple study pathways for sub-degree holders, while ensuring both quality and quantity.  In addition to doubling UGC-funded senior year undergraduate intake places to 4 000 each year, we also implement a basket of measures to support the development of the self-financing post-secondary sector.  As a result, despite the reduction in CityU's self-financing top-up degree places, it is expected that the total number of full-time locally-accredited self-financing top-up degree intake places will increase from about 3 900 in the current academic year to over 5 000 in the 2012/13 academic year.

(c) According to CityU, the establishment of a School of Veterinary Science (vet school) and the provision of degree programmes in veterinary science on a self-financing basis are still in the planning stage, hence details such as location have not yet been decided.

     CityU submitted a proposal to the UGC in August 2009 to launch publicly-funded degree programmes in veterinary science.  Based on the information provided by CityU at that time and after consulting the Administration, and having examined the academic, clinical and accreditation prospects as well as the financial aspects of the proposal, the UGC concluded that it would not support CityU's proposal to set up a vet school in Hong Kong with public funds.  Regarding the CityU's intention to set up a vet school on a self-financing basis, the UGC noted that the considerations concerning the viability of a publicly-funded vet school also applied to a self-financing operation.  As with all self-financing programmes, the UGC will ask CityU to ensure that self-financing activities do not detract from its core work, particularly the preparation for the implementation of the "3+3+4" new academic structure.  UGC will also remind CityU of the need to have distinct separation of resources from publicly-funded programmes.

     In addition, the Government has made it clear that UGC-funded activities should have priority in the use of teaching facilities provided with public funds.  As regards CityU's Academic 2, it is a new teaching block constructed on the Kowloon Tong campus with a loan provided under the Start-up Loan Scheme and is to be used primarily by CCCU students.  The use of this new block does not include the provision of degree programmes in veterinary science.  If CityU wishes to provide programmes in veterinary science in this new block, it must obtain the prior approval of the Education Bureau.

     In fact, the UGC takes interest in all building development projects of UGC-funded institutions, irrespective of their funding sources, to ensure that these projects are in line with the master development plan of the campus and consistent with the roles and missions of institutions as agreed with the UGC.  Furthermore, it is necessary to ensure that the development projects will not become a burden to the institution and eventually to the UGC and the Government.  Institutions are therefore required to inform the UGC of any wholly privately funded projects before their commencement.

     As with all self-financing activities, we expect institutions to ensure that self-financing programmes do not detract from the core work of institutions, have distinct separation of resources from publicly-funded programmes, and are financially viable and sustainable.  CityU has assured us that it will fully comply with the UGC's requirement of no cross-subsidisation of the vet school using UGC resources.

     As advised by CityU, the institution already planned to reduce its self-financing undergraduate places back in the 2007/08 academic year in order to enhance teaching quality by pooling resources.  At that time, there was no plan to set up a vet school yet.

Ends/Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Issued at HKT 16:23


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