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LCQ12: Self-financing post-secondary programmes

     Following is a question by the Dr Hon Kenneth Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (November 7):


     In recent years, many students have enrolled in various self-financing post-secondary (SFPS) programmes and the number of SFPS institutions operated by different bodies and universities is also on the rise.  It has been reported that the Community College and the Lingnan Institute of Further Education operated by the Lingnan University as well as the HKU SPACE Community College are alleged to have over-enrolled students, which has aroused public concern about the operations and regulation of SFPS institutions.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) whether the authorities will follow up the incidents of over-enrolment of students by the aforesaid institutions and conduct an independent investigation into the matter; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(b) whether it knows the total number of places offered by, and the total actual intake of, the SFPS programmes of each SFPS institution in each of the past three years;

(c) whether it knows, in the past five years, the amounts of application fee, enrolment deposit and other admission fees for SFPS programmes charged by each of the SFPS institutions operated by publicly funded tertiary institutions; given that those applicants who end up not studying in the post-secondary institutions concerned may not be able to get a full refund of the aforesaid fees, whether the authorities have regulated the charging of such fees; if they have, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(d) of the number and nature of complaints received by the authorities and the University Grants Committee in the past five years about SFPS institutions and programmes, with a breakdown by institutions and nature of complaints; and how they have specifically followed up these complaints;

(e) whether the authorities will conduct a comprehensive review of the existing mechanism for regulating SFPS institutions and programmes in the light of the above mentioned incidents of over-enrolment of students; if they will, of the details of the review; if not, the reasons for that; and

(f) whether the authorities will consider reviewing the existing academic accreditation mechanism for such programmes, so as to ensure the programme quality and that the institutions can provide a suitable learning environment for their students; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     2012 is a double-cohort year in which the first cohort of students sitting the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination and the last cohort of day school students sitting the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination completed their secondary education at the same time.  To provide more progression pathways for the 103 500 or so examination candidates under the new and old academic structures, post-secondary institutions (both publicly-funded and self-financing) offer more than 75 000 locally-accredited post-secondary programme intake places and another 35 000 places for continuous education and vocational training programmes in the 2012/13 academic year.  Students may proceed to degree or sub-degree level education or attend other programmes according to their interests, aptitude and abilities.  Without previous HKDSE examination results to serve as reference, institutions had certain difficulties in determining the admission criteria for different programmes.  Furthermore, given the fact that 2012 is a double-cohort year, institutions had to reserve places for students under the new and old academic structures and encountered considerable challenges in admission arrangements.  

(a) The Government is very much concerned about the recent incident related to the admission and programme arrangements of the Community College of Lingnan University and the Lingnan Institute of Further Education.  We note that the Lingnan University is taking follow-up actions.  An inquiry panel was set up on September 28, 2012 to undertake investigation and conduct review, including the incident's impact on teaching and learning.  A report, together with recommendations on improvement measures, will be submitted to the Lingnan University within three months.  We note that the Lingnan University later decided on October 16, 2012 to expand the membership of the inquiry panel by appointing two more Council Members and inviting the President of the Lingnan University Students' Union to be an observer, so as to enhance the credibility of the inquiry panel.  We hope that the university can handle the matter properly, maintain effective communication with students, cater for their needs and ensure the quality of its programmes.  The Education Bureau (EDB) has already requested the Lingnan University to submit a report by the end of this year and will continue to monitor closely the progress of the follow-up actions.

     As regards the HKU SPACE Community College, the institution has informed that appropriate arrangements have already been made for students admitted.  These include appointing sufficient teachers with relevant qualification and experience, expanding learning centres and procuring additional teaching equipment.

     The EDB will also follow up the issues related to the admission and programmes of the said institutions through the Liaison Committee on Quality Assurance with the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications (HKCAAVQ), Joint Quality Review Committee (JQRC) and Quality Assurance Council (QAC).

(b) On the basis of the data provided by the institutions, we have compiled a table showing the estimated number of places and actual intake for locally-accredited self-financing full-time undergraduate and sub-degree programmes over the past three academic years from 2010/11 to 2012/13 as shown in Annex A.

(c) Post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong enjoy a high degree of autonomy in academic development and administration.  Each institution may devise its admission arrangements in the light of its own circumstances, including the collection of application fee and enrolment deposit.  To facilitate double-cohort graduates in their academic pursuit, all post-secondary institutions outside the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS) have agreed this year that the timeline for enrolment deposit settlement should be 12.00 noon of the fourth working day (exclusive) after the release of the public examination results.  Beyond this timeline, residual places would be appropriately allocated to applicants on the waiting lists.  As some students might be offered a place for more than one programme, institutions have decided to charge an enrolment deposit in a bid to minimise the wastage of places.  This year, most of the non-JUPAS institutions agreed to set their enrolment deposits or registration fees at $5,000 or below.  Since enrolment deposit was to be settled before the JUPAS results were released, most institutions allowed a refund of enrolment deposit to applicants who later accepted an offer via JUPAS for full-time University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded undergraduate programme.  A summary of the arrangements was uploaded onto the Information Portal for Accredited Post-Secondary Programmes (iPASS) in June this year and is set out at Annex B.

(d) In the past five years, the EDB and the UGC Secretariat received 75 and 12 complaints respectively about self-financing post-secondary institutions and programmes.  The complaints were mostly related to administrative arrangements, tuition fees and other charges, quality of teaching and student assessment.  All the complaint cases have been followed up and handled in accordance with established internal procedures, with actions taken to contact or reply to the complainants.

(e) and (f) Currently, there are three quality assurance bodies in Hong Kong to monitor the quality of the post-secondary education sector.  The HKCAAVQ is a statutory body responsible for the quality assurance of all operators and programmes except the UGC-funded institutions which enjoy self-accrediting status.  The QAC is a semi-autonomous non-statutory body under the aegis of the UGC to conduct quality audits of the UGC-funded institutions and programmes offered at degree level and above, however funded.  The JQRC was established by the Heads of Universities Committees to provide peer review of the quality assurance processes of self-financing sub-degree programmes offered by the UGC-funded institutions.

     The Government attaches great importance to the quality assurance of post-secondary education.  The UGC recommended in its Report on Higher Education Review 2010 that a single quality assurance body for the entire post-secondary sector should be set up.  While the Government will explore the possibility of eventually setting up a single quality assurance body, we have been implementing incremental steps to enhance the quality assurance mechanism:

(i) The Government has transformed the Tripartite Liaison Committee (comprising the EDB, HKCAAVQ and JQRC) and formed the Liaison Committee on Quality Assurance by engaging the QAC.  The goals of the Committee are to promote sharing of good practices among all the quality assurance bodies and enhance consistency and transparency so as to enhance accountability.  Through the Committee, the EDB will follow up issues relating to institutions' admission and programme arrangements; and

(ii) As stated in its response to the UGC's Report on Higher Education Review, the Government considers that periodic external audits and reviews should be conducted on community colleges or self-financing sub-degree operations under the aegis of UGC-funded institutions so as to enhance quality assurance and ensure consistency and coherence in standards.  To this end, the Government stipulates under the Sixth Matching Grant Scheme (MGS) launched in August this year that UGC-funded institutions would need to undertake that their sub-degree operations benefitting from the Sixth MGS should be subject to periodic quality audits by the HKCAAVQ in future.  UGC-funded institutions participating in the latest round of Start-up Loan Scheme for self-financing institutions launched in October this year are also required to make a similar undertaking.  The EDB, in conjunction with relevant bodies, will study the implementation details.

Ends/Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:09


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