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LCQ21: Broadening the opportunities for local students to receive higher education

     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 (January 21):


     Under the existing policy, institutions funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC) may set aside up to 4% within the UGC-funded places and up to 16% outside the UGC-funded places for admission of non-local students to their UGC-funded sub-degree, undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes (the 4%-in-16%-out policy). It has been reported that in order to address public concerns, the Chief Executive in Council approved in December last year the recommendation to change the 4%-in-16%-out policy to a 20%-out policy starting from the 2016-2017 academic year, so that all the UGC-funded places at institutions will be utilised for admission of local students. Moreover, on full implementation of various measures of the Government to support students in proceeding to post-secondary education, and given the continuous decline in the number of secondary school leavers, the Government envisages that by the 2016-2017 academic year, there will be sufficient publicly-funded and self-financing first-year-first-degree (FYFD) places for all secondary school leavers meeting minimum requirements for university admission. The Government has also indicated that it will conduct a review on the tuition fees of universities. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether it knows the respective numbers of non-local students admitted by various UGC-funded institutions to UGC-funded FYFD programmes in each of the years since the implementation of the 4%-in-16%-out policy;

(2) whether it knows the specific timetable of UGC for implementing the 20%-out policy, including whether the policy will be implemented by phases;

(3) whether the Government will consider increasing the number of UGC-funded FYFD places after the implementation of the 20%-out policy by UGC; if it will, of the details;

(4) whether the Government will study ways to cope with the impact of the decline in the number of secondary school leavers on UGC-funded or self-financing sub-degree programmes (such as tertiary institutions reducing the places of UGC-funded or self-financing sub-degree programmes or even ceasing the operation of sub-degree programmes as a result of declining student population); if it will, of the details of the study; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) of the specific work plan and timetable of the Government for reviewing the tuition fees of universities; whether the Government will consult the public on the tuition fees review together with university places; if it will, of its plan and timetable; if not, the reasons for that?



(1) Under the existing policy, University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded institutions may admit non-local students to their UGC-funded sub-degree, undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes up to a level equivalent to 20% of the approved UGC-funded student number. This 20% comprises up to 4% within and up to 16% outside the UGC-funded number (i.e. by over-enrolment with no additional recurrent funding from the UGC) (the "4-in-16-out" policy). This policy aims to attract students of high calibre outside Hong Kong to study in the city and promote internationalisation of institutions, which can also benefit local students.

     Since the implementation of the "4-in-16-out" policy in the 2008/09 academic year, there has been a steady increase in the number of non-local students admitted to UGC-funded first-year first-degree (FYFD) programmes offered by UGC-funded institutions, from a total of 1 666 (equivalent to 11.4% of the approved places) in the 2008/09 academic year to 2 560 (equivalent to 17.1% of the approved places) in the 2014/15 academic year. Details are set out at the Annex.

(2) The Chief Executive in Council has recently approved the recommendation of migrating from the "4-in-16-out" policy to a "20-out" policy, under which all new non-local students in sub-degree, undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes should be admitted through over-enrolment outside the approved UGC-funded student number targets, capped at a level equivalent to 20% of the approved UGC-funded student number targets for these programmes, by study level. The new "20-out" policy will be implemented starting from the 2016/17 academic year. The UGC is consulting its funded institutions on the implementation details for this policy.

(3) All along, the Government has been striving to provide secondary school leavers with flexible and diversified articulation pathways with multiple entry and exit points through promoting the quality and sustainable development of the publicly-funded and self-financing post-secondary education sectors. Through the development of both sectors, about 38% of our young people in the relevant cohort now have access to degree-level education. Even if we count publicly-funded undergraduate programmes only, the cohort participation rate was nearly 23% in the 2013/14 academic year. In view of the continuous decline expected in the number of local secondary school leavers from about 62 000 in 2014 to 42 700 in 2022, the Government has been exercising prudence in its planning for the provision of subsidised higher education opportunities, with due emphasis on both quality and quantity. In his 2014 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced a series of initiatives to provide school leavers with broader and more diversified articulation pathways. On full implementation of these measures, and given the declining student population, we envisage that there will be sufficient publicly-funded and self-financing FYFD places for all secondary school leavers meeting minimum entrance requirements for university admission by the 2016/17 academic year, assuming the performance of secondary school leavers is maintained at a comparable level. In this connection, the Government has no intention to further increase the provision of UGC-funded FYFD places at this juncture.

(4) Looking ahead, we anticipate a declining population in the relevant age cohort for post-secondary education. While the Government is committed to providing our young people with flexible and diversified study pathways with multiple entry and exit points, we believe it is time to consolidate the sub-degree sector by enhancing the programmes in both quality and quantity. The Committee on Self-financing Post-secondary Education established in April 2012 serves as an effective platform for discussing among the sector macro and strategic issues, including the supply and demand of places for post-secondary education to facilitate institutions in making appropriate adjustments to their programmes and number of places.

     Implementation and incremental enhancement of polices is a cyclic process. Regarding quality, we firmly believe that only quality programmes could ensure sustainable development. Institutions are aware that they must improve the quality of teaching and learning and promote the development of professional and vocational training with due regard for the long-term manpower needs of the community, so as to ensure employers' recognition of the quality of graduates and the qualifications that programmes lead to. Regarding quantity, the Education Bureau has been maintaining communication with the sector. In the light of the declining secondary student population in the coming years, we have on a number of occasions discussed with institutions the strategies and issues relating to the consolidation of the sub-degree sector, and reminded them to exercise prudence in launching new programmes, taking into consideration the availability of similar programmes and the demand for the programmes to be offered.

(5) The indicative tuition fee level for local students has been maintained at the current level since the 1997/98 academic year. It is the Government's decision that the indicative tuition fee level for local students will continue to be maintained in the 2015/16 academic year, and this has formed the basis for calculating the recurrent grants for UGC-funded institutions for the academic year concerned. We will take into account the experience of implementing the new academic structure in the 2012/13 to 2014/15 triennium before embarking on any review of the tuition fee level, and there is no specific timetable drawn up at this moment.

Ends/Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:28


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