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LCQ14: Donations to local universities made by commercial sector

     Following is a question by Hon Albert Ho and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Mr Eddie Ng Hak-kim, in the Legislative Council today (February 24):


     It has been reported in the press that on different occasions in recent months, the Chief Executive (CE) claimed that local universities were rather abundantly resourced and were even faced with the problem of surplus staff, and he therefore appealed to members of the commercial sector not to make further donations to local universities and to give donations to scientific research projects or primary and secondary schools instead. In response to the relevant press report, the Office of the Chief Executive (CEO) neither confirmed nor denied that CE had made such an appeal. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(1) whether CEO sought, right after the publication of the aforesaid press report, confirmation from CE if the contents of the report were true; if CEO did, of the details, and why CEO neither confirmed nor denied that CE had made the aforesaid appeal; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) of the following information concerning each of the institutions funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC-funded institutions) in each of the years from 2013/14 to 2015/16:

(i) the rates of changes in the recurrent grants and the amounts involved,

(ii) the amounts of funding provision for home financing and other benefits and the rates of changes involved,

(iii) the amounts of expenditure on salaries and benefits and their percentages in the overall funding provision,

(iv) the rates of changes in other various funding provisions and the amounts involved, and

(v) the ratio between the total amount of donations made by the commercial sector or individuals and the total amount of funding provided by the Government in the same year; and

(3) whether they have assessed if the commercial sector would respond to CE's appeal and reduce its donations to local universities; if they have assessed and the outcome is in the affirmative, whether the Government will adjust upwards the ratio between the matching grant disbursed to UGC-funded institutions by the Government and the donations secured by such institutions when the next round of "Matching Grant Scheme" is launched; if it will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Government has been supporting the quality and sustainable development of institutions funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC) through provision of funding for these institutions to carry out teaching and research activities. The Government allocates recurrent grants to the eight UGC-funded institutions in the form of a block grant, usually on a triennial basis, to tie in with the academic planning cycle of the UGC-funded sector. The level of funding is determined according to the established mechanism, taking into account, amongst others, the student number targets for the funding period concerned as well as necessary price and pay adjustments. For example, regarding the 2016/17 to 2018/19 triennium, the Chief Executive in Council has fully accepted the UGC's recommendation to set the Cash Limit at $53.6 billion, or $17.9 billion each year, which represents an increase of 4.7 per cent over the $17.1 billion for the 2015/16 academic year.

     On the other hand, the Government also supports the institutions' efforts to diversify their funding sources and foster a philanthropic culture in the community through the development of a systemic fund-raising mechanism.

     The UGC-funded institutions are independent statutory bodies which have a high degree of autonomy in the management of internal affairs, personnel and remuneration systems, deployment of internal resources, etc. They can also determine on their own the best use of grants and of funding provision from other sources. However, in view of the significant funding the institutions receive in the form of Government subvention and private contributions, as well as the importance of higher education to the development of society, it is incumbent upon the Government and the community at large to have a legitimate interest in the operation of the institutions. Therefore, while the Government and the UGC attach great importance to safeguarding academic freedom and institutional autonomy, institutions are expected to remain committed to transparency and accountability in their operation, to ensure that funding is put to appropriate uses that serve the best interests of the community and students.

     With regard to Hon Albert Ho's question, my reply is as follows:

(1) and (3) The Chief Executive has been encouraging members of the community to support education by way of donation to target recipients which include universities and secondary schools. As a matter of fact, the Chief Executive attended the donation ceremonies of the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and City University of Hong Kong respectively last year, during which he appealed to different sectors of the community for continued donations to universities. Furthermore, the Chief Executive will continue to attend the fund-raising activities of different universities in order to show his support to their development.

     The Matching Grant Scheme (MGS) is a non-recurrent exercise. The sixth MGS was completed in late July 2014. The Government currently has no plan to launch a new round of MGS in the pipeline. If the Government decides to launch another round of MGS in future, it will then consider a suitable matching ratio.

(2) Relevant data of UGC-funded institutions from 2013/14 to 2015/16 is at Annex.

Ends/Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:17


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