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LCQ3: Terms of employment of officers of universities
     Following is a question by the Hon Tang Ka-piu and a reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (May 3):
     Regarding the terms of employment of officers (i.e. President, Vice-‍Presidents and Deans of Faculties) of the eight universities funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC), will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the officer of the various UGC-funded universities with the biggest remuneration package and employee's benefits in each of the past five years, as well as the details of the relevant package and benefits;
(2) whether it knows currently the persons or organisations determining the remuneration packages and employees' benefits for officers of the various UGC-funded universities;
(3) whether it knows currently the persons or organisations determining the terms of dismissal (including notice periods and compensations) for officers of the various UGC-funded universities, as well as the persons or organisations having the authority to dismiss such officers;
(4) whether it knows if the various UGC-funded universities have currently set retirement age and formulated mechanisms for extending the retirement age of their officers; if they have, of the details;
(5) whether it knows if the Council of various UGC-funded universities can access the employment contract of the President employed by the relevant university, as well as if such universities have established mechanisms to make public such contracts; and
(6) whether the Education Bureau or UGC has kept for record the employment contracts of officers of the various UGC-funded universities?
     The eight University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded universities are independent statutory bodies established pursuant to their respective ordinances, each with a Council that serves as the governing and decision-making body (Note 1). The respective ordinances and statutes of the universities set out their objectives, functions and governance structures, and provide for the universities to have the power to carry out their objectives and functions.
     The appointment and remuneration of staff members is a matter within the autonomy of the UGC-funded universities. The universities have all along been implementing their own personnel policies and mechanisms for handling the appointment matters of their staff members without the participation or interference of the Government or the UGC. Since the deregulation of the salary scales of the UGC-funded universities in 2003, the universities have been able to flexibly determine the remuneration and benefits of academic staff.
     Based on the information provided by the UGC Secretariat and the UGC-funded universities, our consolidated response to the various parts of the question is as follows:
(1) The UGC Notes on Procedures require UGC-funded universities to disclose in their annual financial reports, in bands of $150,000, the number of staff members whose total annual remuneration (including salaries, allowances, gratuities, contributions to retirement schemes, housing benefits and other benefits, etc.) exceeds $1,800,000, irrespective of funding sources. Based on the above public information, the highest remuneration bands among all staff members in the respective UGC-funded universities for the past five academic years (i.e. 2017/18 to 2021/22 academic years) are set out in Annex.
(2) to (4) The appointment or removal of the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of the UGC-funded universities shall be approved by the Councils in accordance with the respective governing ordinances, statues and the relevant arrangements of the universities. In addition, individual universities further stipulate that the decision to appoint or remove the Deans of Faculties shall be made by the Councils. In general, on the determination of the terms and conditions of services of university staff members (including those relevant to staff dismissals) is the prerogative of the Councils. Subject to provisions of the respective governing ordinances, the Councils may authorise its committees or executives to undertake such work in accordance with the established mechanisms.
     The universities have formulated staff retirement policies, having regard to their circumstances, with the prevailing retirement age generally set at either 60 or 65. The universities have also put in place mechanisms for processing and approving cases of appointment and re-appointment involving staff members who have reached the retirement age, taking into account factors such as job performance, the universities' manpower needs or special circumstances. As mentioned above, the appointment of the Presidents, Vice Presidents and Deans of individual faculties, including the appointment extension of staff members who have reached the retirement age, is generally subject to the decision of the Councils.
(5) and (6) Employment contracts are agreements signed between employers and employees, and may involve personal information. The specific arrangements for disclosure of the relevant agreements are internal matters of the universities. As mentioned above, the universities are required to disclose the highest paid staff members in their financial reports in accordance with the prevailing requirements. The Government and the UGC Secretariat do not maintain records of any employment contracts for staff members of the UGC-funded universities.
Note 1: While the common English term "Council" applies to the governing and decision-making bodies of all eight UGC-funded universities, the governing and decision-making body of the University of Hong Kong is termed "校務委員會" in Chinese while those of the other seven UGC-funded universities are termed "校董會".
Ends/Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Issued at HKT 13:00
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