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LCQ9: Operation of self-financing post-secondary institutions

     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 12):


     It is learnt that quite a number of self-financing post-secondary institutions charge students applying for admission to their study programmes application fees, and charge those admitted non-refundable enrolment deposits. On the other hand, some self-financing post-secondary institutions have relayed to me that given the rapidly changing demand for the places of the study programmes operated by them, their student intakes have become highly volatile, which is not conducive to the long term development of the institutions. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows, in the past three academic years, the respective total amounts of application fees and enrolment deposits collected by various self-financing post-secondary institutions, as well as the total amount of non-refundable enrolment deposits paid by students who subsequently declined offers, with a breakdown by academic year and institution;

(2) whether it knows the respective numbers of places and actual student intakes of various self-financing post-secondary institutions in the past two academic years, with a breakdown by institution and programme type (e.g. sub-degree, top-up degree and degree programmes);

(3) whether it has reviewed the supply of and demand for the places and operation of the study programmes of self-financing post-secondary institutions as well as the future development of such institutions; if it has, of the details and outcome of such review(s); if not, whether the authorities will embark on the reviews shortly; if they will, of the details of their work plans; if not, the reasons for that;

(4) given the comments that secondary student population will drop year by year in the coming few years, and the student enrolment and even viability of various self-financing post-secondary institutions will be directly affected, whether the authorities have formulated targeted measures to support self-financing post-secondary institutions in exploring new development directions; if they have, of the details of such measures; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) as it was reported in June this year that the City University of Hong Kong (CityU) planned to sell the Community College of City University, which was established by CityU to provide self-financing associate degree programmes, whether the authorities have received any notification from CityU about the matter; if they have, of the details; whether the authorities will take any follow-up action; if they will, of the details; if they will not, the reasons for that; whether the authorities have received any request for assistance from the students or staff of the College?



(1) and (2) Post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong enjoy a high degree of autonomy in academic development and administration. Basically, post-secondary institutions not covered by the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS) may, in the light of their own circumstances, devise their admission arrangements, including, among others, the collection of application fees and enrolment deposits, as well as setting fee level and refund conditions and procedures. However, we consider that the admission arrangements must have taken into consideration students' situations and needs in which the enrolment deposit should be set at a level affordable to students and the admission arrangements should be sensible and reasonable.

     We understand that institutions have the genuine need to collect enrolment deposits so as to facilitate planning and arrangements for matters in relation to the enrolment capacity, academic staff, resource and supporting measures, etc. Besides, it is a common practice for some students to pay enrolment deposits to more than one non-JUPAS institution for the sake of multiple assurances. Many of them may tend to keep more than one intake place, thus frustrating the timely allocation of intake places to students on waiting lists and upsetting institutions' plans.

     To enhance support for students and assist institutions in processing applications and admissions in an orderly and efficient manner, all non-JUPAS post-secondary institutions have adopted common application and admission arrangements since 2012, including:

(i) a common deadline for payment of enrolment deposit is set at noon four working days from the release of the Hong Kong Diploma in Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination results, so as to enable institutions to publicise the first round of admission result by the deadline and students to make an informed choice of programme. Beyond this timeline, residual places will be appropriately allocated to applicants on waiting lists;

(ii) most of the institutions have agreed to set their enrolment deposits or registration fees at $5,000 or below;

(iii) most non-JUPAS institutions allow a refund of enrolment deposits to applicants who later accept an offer via JUPAS for full-time undergraduate programmes funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC); and

(iv) a summary of the arrangements has been uploaded onto the Information Portal for Accredited Post-Secondary Programmes (iPASS) ( for easy access by teachers, students, parents and the general public.

     In general, while the application fees collected are used to cover an institution's expenditure incurred in processing applications, the enrolment deposits will become part of the tuition fees. All existing post-secondary institutions are non-profit-making bodies. Any enrolment deposit forfeited by an applicant who has given up his/her reserved place will generally be used by the institution centrally for operation and development, such as enhancing the institution's facilities and teaching quality, as well as setting up scholarships, which will in turn benefit its students.

     Based on the data provided by institutions offering full-time locally-accredited self-financing sub-degree and undergraduate programmes, the information on application fees and enrolment deposits collected by each of the institutions in the past three academic years is set out in Annex 1.

     The Government is committed to providing quality and diversified study pathways with multiple entry and exit points for our young people. A total of some 300 full-time locally-accredited undergraduate programmes are offered in the 2014/15 academic year. Besides, local post-secondary institutions also offer some 400 sub-degree programmes covering a variety of academic and professional disciplines. Based on the data provided by the institutions, the estimated and actual intakes of self-financing sub-degree, top-up degree and undergraduate programmes by institution in the last two academic years are set out in Annex 2.

(3) and (4) With regard to monitoring the operation and development of the self-financing post-secondary institutions, the Government places the focus on enhancing transparency, strengthening quality assurance, promoting good governance and safeguarding the interest of students. To further enhance transparency, the Committee on Self-financing Post-secondary Education (CSPE) launched the Concourse website ( in December last year to provide comprehensive information and statistics of the self-financing post-secondary education sector, which helps enhance transparency and accountability. In the meantime, the Education Bureau (EDB) has been publicising the estimated intake places of institutions offering self-financing sub-degree and undergraduate programmes in each academic year through iPASS and Concourse.

     While self-financing post-secondary institutions are diverse in size, character and mission, good governance and quality assurance are of pivotal importance to the healthy and sustainable development and operation of the self-financing sector. To further promote the enhancement of governance and quality assurance for the sector, CSPE has earlier engaged an external consultant to conduct a consultancy study for developing a code of good practices to further advance the development of the sector. The report of the consultancy study was published in August this year. The full report and the executive summary have been uploaded onto the Concourse website for access by the public. CSPE will continue to take forward the work on promoting good governance, including organising a sharing session in the fourth quarter of this year with the self-financing post-secondary institutions with a view to sharing with them the findings and recommendations of the report; and working on the recommendations of the report to compile a code of good practices on governance and quality assurance for the self-financing post-secondary sector. The code is scheduled for release in the first half of next year for the institutions to adopt on a voluntary basis.

     Furthermore, EDB has been communicating and discussing with institutions on a number of occasions the strategies and issues relating to the consolidation of the sub-degree sector in the light of declining secondary student population in the coming years. Meanwhile, institutions are reminded to remain prudent in launching new programmes taking into consideration the availability of similar programmes and the demand for programmes to be offered.

(5) The eight institutions [including the City University of Hong Kong (CityU)] funded through the UGC are autonomous statutory bodies, each with its own ordinance. While enjoying a high degree of institutional autonomy in academic development and administration, each institution should be mindful of the interests of the students and the public and be held accountable for their decisions.

     Generally speaking, UGC-funded institutions may decide on the setting up of their self-financing operations and the future development of these establishments on their own without the need to seek the approval of EDB. That said, institutions should ensure that self-financing activities do not detract from their core work and have distinct separation of resources from publicly-funded programmes. As for matters involving staff and students, institutions should also ensure adequate consultation and communication, and that reasonable arrangements are put in place.

     CityU has informed EDB earlier of its initial ideas on the future development of its Community College of City University (CCCU), but a decision has yet to be made. Given the possible impacts of the development on its staff and students, EDB has made it clear to CityU that any arrangements have to take into account the interests of the existing staff and students, and to ensure that the quality and recognition of programmes will not be adversely affected.

     CityU announced in late June this year that its Council was exploring the possibility of working with an appropriately qualified higher education institution with a view to possibly forming a strategic partnership which adds value to the reputation of CCCU and its current Associate Degree programmes, increases the opportunities for CCCU graduates to articulate to undergraduate programmes and facilitates overseas exchanges for both students and staff. Upon EDB's further enquiry, CityU confirmed that the students and staff of CCCU had been informed that the future development of CCCU would not affect them adversely. In this connection, CityU has undertaken to:

(i) ensure that for current students of CCCU, there will be no changes to their programmes, awards of qualification and relevant tuition fees; and

(ii) require its future partner to provide assurance on the continued validity of CCCU staff's current terms of employment.

     CityU further expressed that the Chairman and the Deputy Chairman of its Council had met with representatives from the concern groups and students to exchange views on the future development of CCCU. The Principal of CCCU had also consulted the staff of various departments and communicated to them the Council's considerations in looking for an appropriate partner. We will continue to keep the future development of CCCU in view.

Ends/Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Issued at HKT 12:20


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