LCQ6: Collection of enrolment deposits and tuition fees for self-financing post-secondary programmes

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Kwok-hing and a reply by the Acting Secretary for Education, Mr Kevin Yeung, in the Legislative Council today (October 14):


     It has been reported that apart from applying for admission to funded post-secondary programmes (funded programmes) through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System, quite a number of candidates sitting for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination also apply for admission to certain self-financing post-secondary programmes (self-financing programmes) as a fallback. Upon being admitted to a self-financing programme, they are normally required to pay an enrolment deposit and the first instalment of tuition fees immediately. Different programmes have different refund arrangements, which also depend on the reasons for application for refund. If the reason is that they have enrolled in other programmes, whether they will receive a refund depends on whether the programmes in which they have switched to enrol are funded or self-financing ones. Some students consider that as the fees range from as high as tens of thousand to several tens of thousand dollars, the no-refund practice not only poses considerable burden to students from grass-roots families but also gives rise to unfairness. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) given that for students who have paid the enrolment deposits and the first instalment of tuition fees for self-financing programmes, they may generally get a full or partial refund if they switch to enrol in funded programmes, but they will not get any refund if they switch to enrol in other self-financing programmes, and the latter may feel being discriminated against, what measures the authorities will take to rectify such situation;

(2) as I have learnt that some institutions will at their discretion refund students who have enrolled in self-financing programmes the fees they have paid, but such discretion is often confined to refund applications made for the reason of suffering from critical illnesses, whether the authorities will request the institutions concerned to revise the refund guidelines to refund students from poor families on a discretionary basis; and

(3) whether the authorities will rationalise the admission procedures for funded and self-financing programmes and align the dates for announcing admission results of both types of programmes so that students can select their most favourite programmes and pay tuition fees after learning the admission results of the various programmes concerned; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     Self-financing post-secondary institutions in Hong Kong enjoy a high degree of autonomy in academic development and administration. Except for some self-financing post-secondary programmes of which the places are allocated via the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS), institutions offering other self-financing post-secondary programmes may devise their own admission arrangements. We understand that there is a genuine need for institutions to collect enrolment deposits to ascertain the number of students for making arrangements related to academic staff, resources, supporting measures, etc. as early as possible, so as to effectively provide high quality teaching to students, and also to the greatest extent possible discourage students from unnecessarily keeping more than one place which may affect the timely allocation of places to other students. We consider that institutions should take into account, apart from their own operational needs, students' circumstances and needs as well in order to draw up reasonable and appropriate arrangements regarding the amount and timeline of collecting enrolment deposits.

     My reply to Hon Wong's question on the application arrangements for candidates of the Hong Kong Diploma in Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination enrolling in self-financing post-secondary programmes is as follows:

(1) and (2) To enhance the support for candidates of HKDSE Examination and facilitate the processing of application and admission in an orderly and efficient manner, non-JUPAS post-secondary institutions in general have adopted common application and admission arrangements since 2012 under the co-ordination of the Education Bureau (EDB). Such arrangements include the following:

(a) setting the deadline for payment of enrolment deposits at noon of the fourth working day from the date of the release of HKDSE Examination results, so as to enable institutions to announce the first round of admission results by the deadline, and allow students to make a more informed choice of programme. After the deadline, remaining places will be allocated to other applicants on waiting lists;

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

(c) most non-JUPAS institutions allow applicants who are subsequently admitted to a full-time undergraduate programme funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC) via the JUPAS Main or Clearing Round of offer to apply for refund of enrolment deposits. Starting from 2015, this refund arrangement also applies to students who are admitted to a subsidised undergraduate programme under the Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors via the JUPAS Main or Clearing Round of offer.

     A summary of the relevant arrangements has been uploaded onto the Information Portal for Accredited Post-secondary Programmes for access by teachers, students, parents and the public at large.

     Institutions generally require students to settle the first instalment of tuition fee before the commencement of a programme. We understand that institutions have different schedules for collecting the payment, yet we are of the view that institutions should not collect the first instalment of tuition fee at a too early stage so as not to impose unnecessary financial burdens on students. Most institutions' arrangements for the refund of the first instalment of tuition fees are in line with that for the refund of enrolment deposits. To our understanding, apart from the aforesaid arrangements, self-financing post-secondary institutions would consider, with discretion, refunding any enrolment deposits and first instalment of tuition fees paid by students who submit such request with full justifications of health issues or financial difficulties.

     The aforementioned refund arrangements have struck a balance between the circumstances and needs of students, as well as the equity among self-financing post-secondary institutions in respect of their admission arrangements. In view of the opinions of students and parents, the EDB will continue to liaise with the institutions to explore ways to further improve the arrangements.

(3) At present, the first round of admission results for non-JUPAS self-financing programmes are generally announced on the date of release of HKDSE Examination results or within a few days afterwards. Candidates of HKDSE Examination may also be given conditional offers by non-JUPAS institutions prior to the release of HKDSE Examination results. The deadline for payment of enrolment deposits for those non-JUPAS programmes is generally set at noon of the fourth working day from the date of the release of HKDSE Examination results, in order to facilitate students' payment of enrolment deposit to his most preferred self-financing programme. Places of UGC-funded post-secondary programmes are allocated via JUPAS and the allocation results of the Main Round are usually announced in the first half of August, whereas the allocation results of the Clearing Round are announced in the second half of August. Students enrolled in self-financing programmes with enrolment deposits paid may claim refund of their enrolment deposits according to the aforesaid refund arrangements, provided that they are admitted to UGC-funded full-time undergraduate programmes. The prevailing arrangements have avoided the wastage of enrolment deposits paid by students due to varying admission timelines.

     As the mode of operation differs among UGC-funded institutions and most self-financing post-secondary institutions, and that the latter also enjoy a high degree of autonomy in administration, it is difficult to align their admission arrangements. That said, the non-JUPAS institutions have as far as possible taken into account both the needs of students and the institutions' autonomy in administration when devising the arrangements for the refund of enrolment deposits and the first instalment of tuition fees. We will continue to liaise with the institutions to facilitate arrangements that are more convenient to and in the interest of students.

Ends/Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Issued at HKT 15:20