LCQ3: Graduates of post-secondary programmes

     Following is a question by the Hon Mrs Regina Ip and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (July 17):


     Regarding the number of graduates of post-secondary programmes in the coming few years and their employment prospects, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers, as projected by the authorities, of graduates of subsidised and self-financing undergraduate and sub-degree programmes in each year from 2015 to 2018, with a breakdown by their major subjects;

(b) of the total number, as projected by the authorities, of the job vacancies available for application by graduates of post-secondary programmes in each year from 2015 to 2018, with a breakdown by type; whether they have assessed if the total number of such vacancies, and its breakdown by type, will be commensurate with the number of job seekers; and

(c) given that two batches of secondary school graduates from the new and the old academic structures for senior secondary education respectively had been admitted last year to the Bachelor of Laws Degree programmes and they will be graduating in the same year, whether the authorities have assessed the impact of such a situation on these students' opportunities for admission to the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws courses after graduation, securing employment thereafter as trainee solicitors or seeking pupillage as barristers, and pursuing a career in the legal profession?



(a) At present, post-secondary institutions offer degree, sub-degree (including associate degree and higher diploma) and other training programmes of various professional and academic disciplines. Students may choose a progression pathway for further study or career development that best suits their interests, aspirations and abilities.

     Regarding undergraduate programmes, overall speaking, the publicly-funded sector will witness an increase in the estimated number of graduates, from about 17 800 in 2015 to about 19 000 in 2018. As for the self-financing sector, taking the 2012/13 academic year as an example, the first year intakes for full-time accredited self-financing undergraduate programmes and intakes for top-up degree programmes were 7 886 and 6 560 respectively, totalling 14 446.

     In the Annex submitted today, we have presented the overall figures for Members' reference.  The overall intake number of sub-degree programmes is 39 180, whereas the overall intake number of undergraduate programmes is 33 446.  This is the big picture.  That said, we must emphasise that these are intake figures only.  The graduate numbers in 2015 to 2018 can only be confirmed upon graduation of students, before which some of them may withdraw, discontinue or defer studies, etc. Secondly, upon graduation, in particular in respect of sub-degree students, many would choose to pursue further studies, a factor we should take into account when considering the issue of graduate employment.

(b) The Government conducts Manpower Projection from time to time to assess the trends of future local manpower supply and demand at the macro level, as well as the local manpower situation at different education levels. According to the Manpower Projection to 2018 released by the Labour and Welfare Bureau last year, with 2010 as the base year for projection, there may be a slight overall manpower shortfall in Hong Kong in 2018; manpower supply and demand for holders of first degree and above qualifications is forecast to be more or less balanced while those at upper secondary, craft, technician and sub-degree levels will experience a shortfall to the tune of about 22 000. The year-on-year change during the projection period is not reflected.

     As for the supply and demand situation of individual sectors, many variables come into play, including graduates' choices for further studies and career development, changes in the marketplace, etc. The primary role of the Government is to promote the flow of relevant information to facilitate the matching of supply and demand. For instance, the Manpower Projection to 2018 provides the manpower requirement projection (MRP) analysed by economic sectors, and similarly the Vocational Training Council conducts surveys from time to time on manpower requirements of individual sectors in order to provide useful planning information to facilitate institutions, various sectors and relevant policy bureaux in manpower planning. In formulating academic development proposals, the UGC sector will balance various factors, such as socio-economic needs of the community, institutional development, number of academic staff available, interests of students, etc, while making reference to the Government's MRP as well as the advice of relevant policy bureaux and sectors, before setting student intakes for various academic programmes. The Government does not set any parameters for student intakes of individual programmes, except for a few professional disciplines (such as medicine, nursing, teacher training, etc). As graduates of these academic disciplines are mainly trained by UGC-funded institutions and employed by the public sector, the Government is in a better position to make more accurate manpower requirement targets for these academic disciplines. In parallel, the self-financing sector also responds promptly to the needs of the community and provides diversified programmes and intake places in a flexible manner. I would like to highlight that, when post-secondary institutions formulate their academic development proposals, the employment prospects of students is one of the major factors taken into consideration.

     Most importantly, apart from focusing on knowledge in specialised disciplines, the new academic structure (NAS) equips young people with a broad knowledge base, strengthens their language proficiency and other generic skills for enhancing their whole-person development and lifelong learning capabilities, which help lay a solid foundation for them to seek employment in various sectors.

(c) Under the NAS, the length of all UGC-funded undergraduate programmes has been extended by an additional year (mainly extended from three to four years), except for Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and related double degree programmes. Upon consultation with the Standing Committee on Legal Education and Training (SCLET), the Education Bureau and UGC have decided to maintain the lengths of LLB and related double degree programmes at four and five years respectively. As the 2012/13 academic year is a double-cohort year, the number of approved first-year places for UGC-funded undergraduate programmes has been doubled to cater for the study needs of both cohorts of senior secondary graduates under the new and old academic structures. Accordingly, two cohorts of graduates are expected for the LLB programme in 2016 and the same for related double degree programmes in 2017, with the intake numbers involved at 440 and 280 respectively.

     The two cohorts of law students graduating in 2016 and 2017 respectively will generate additional demand for places of the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) programme as well as post-PCLL training opportunities. The issues have been discussed at SCLET meetings. On the part of the Government and the UGC, we will give due consideration in the context of the next round of academic planning. Our initial thinking is to provide one-off additional UGC-funded PCLL places to meet the increased demand in 2016, 2017 or even 2018. Moreover, we will invite the three local law schools to weigh the feasibility of offering more self-financing PCLL places to meet the needs of these two cohorts of LLB graduates as well as graduates of other law programmes, including Juris Doctor or overseas law programmes. As regards post-PCLL training for the double cohorts of graduates, we will invite the SCLET to discuss and study the pertinent issues, and to provide directions and make suitable recommendations to the legal sector.

Ends/Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:55