University Grants Committee Secretariat's response to PAC Report No. 67
In response to Report No. 67 of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Legislative Council, a spokesman for the University Grants Committee (UGC) Secretariat today (February 15) said:
"The UGC Secretariat thanks the Audit Commission and the PAC for their observations and recommendations on the conduct of activities by the UGC, which are constructive and timely. The UGC Secretariat is aware of the PAC's great concern and will study in detail the recommendations made in the PAC report and take appropriate follow-up actions.
"We broadly accept the recommendations of the Audit Commission and the PAC and are, in consultation with the UGC, taking appropriate follow-up action with a view to making continuous improvements in the various areas of work of the UGC. We have followed up with the Audit Commission's recommendations and implemented improvement measures in areas including the following:
- On management of conflicts of interest, the UGC Secretariat has reviewed the system for the management of Register of Interests forms submitted by the UGC members. We note that the former system for monitoring the receipt of and the filing of these forms is less than satisfactory; hence the failure to locate a number of such forms. It should be pointed out that the UGC currently adopts a two-tier reporting system for managing conflict of interest. Apart from the completion of Register of Interests forms upon first appointment, reappointment or significant change of circumstances, UGC members are requested to declare interests whenever they see a reason to do so. When UGC members are aware of any potential conflict with the discussion items on the meeting agendas, they are required to make a declaration, and if necessary, be excused from the relevant discussions. In response to the Audit Commission's recommendation, we have set up a central database on Register of Interests forms submitted by members. A bring-up mechanism will also be put in place to closely monitor the progress of submission from members.
- On internationalisation of UGC-funded universities, the Audit Commission has recommended further encouraging the universities to continue their efforts to attract more non-local students, in particular those other than Mainland students. Recognising that internationalisation may come in many forms, including international strategies, curriculum development, international networks, non-local student recruitment and integration, and international faculty, the UGC has all along been encouraging, and will continue to encourage, universities to internationalise in ways that fit their own institutional context. Funding would continue to be provided to universities in the 2016-19 triennium to continue their efforts to attract more diversified sources of non-local students."
The Chairman of the UGC, Mr Carlson Tong, welcomed the PAC report on the UGC. "It is UGC's role to preserve institutional autonomy and academic freedom in our universities in the context of appropriate financial and public accountability. The UGC has always promoted self-critical practices among our funded universities and within the Committee and Secretariat themselves. We thank the PAC for its recommendations with a view to better discharging their respective roles for the good of Hong Kong's higher education," he said.
Wednesday, February 15, 2017