Home > UGC Publications > Press Releases > 2004 > Hong Kong Higher Education - Integration Matters (3.3.2004)

Hong Kong Higher Education - Integration Matters

The Chairman of the University Grants Committee (UGC), Dr Alice Lam, today (3 March 2004) said that the Committee would take positive measures to facilitate and encourage "deep collaboration" as part of its institutional integration strategy. Institutions are invited to consider and identify opportunities for deep collaboration within the higher education sector.

Speaking jointly with Prof John Niland, who is the Convenor of the UGC Working Party on Institutional Integration (IIWP) at a press conference, Dr Lam said, "Hong Kong aspires to serve as the education hub of the region. In building more productive and closer working relationships amongst our institutions, we will be one step closer in realizing our vision."

"Integration matters" she stressed. "Our higher education system as a whole will gain strategic competitive advantage. It forms part of the policy initiatives to serve the continuing drive for excellence in Hong Kong's higher education sector."

The Working Party, which was established in August 2003, considered and evaluated an array of integration models for possible adoption in the local context, including merger, federation, deep collaboration, loose affiliation and status quo. Prof Niland concluded, "The Deep Collaboration Model offers the greatest prospects, at the moment, for worthwhile gains through institutional integration.

"Deep collaboration is a good deal more robust than simple cooperation and alliance building, in which partner institutions agree to merge functions in designated areas. It involves a substantial modification of operational arrangements, usually with binding contracts to lock in commitments, and will probably entail each participating party surrendering independence on certain issue.

"Deep collaboration is possible across a number of institutional activities, including research, provision of programmes, promotion of teaching and learning quality, and academic support services. Drawing from experience overseas, we are confident that deep collaboration will, amongst institutions, help build greater synergy, create greater critical mass, lift academic and research performance, enhance management support and generate cost savings which could in turn be used for enhancing quality," said Prof Niland.

The UGC published the report, "Hong Kong Higher Education : To Make a Difference, To Move with the Times" in January. The report highlighted the need for a role-driven, yet deeply collaborative, system of higher education in Hong Kong so that the system can sustain a greater variety of offerings at a high level of quality and with improving efficiency.

In response to enquiries about possibility of merging the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) with the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Dr Lam said, "integration embraces a wide array of options or models, and merger is one such option. Having studied the case of HKUST and CUHK, the Committee has reached the conclusion that while merger between these two institutions might become viable at some point in the future, this should not be further explored for the present."

The report of the Working Party indicates that there are transitory barriers for mergers to take place and institutions do not yet have a clear and powerful motivator towards merger.

Noting that deep collaboration will require a significant lift in effort amongst the institutions, Dr Lam said that UGC will be working closely with the institutions to develop and facilitate it wherever the Committee could.

"We believe institutional integration works best when driven by the parties themselves. The main impetus must therefore come from the institutions themselves," Dr Lam said.

"But we wish to give them every encouragement and reason to take the necessary steps. The UGC will approach the matter with a strategic orientation and will take a more proactive position and provide leadership," she said. "The current budget situation and the greater focus on role differentiation that we will give to institutions, will add impetus. We are setting up a Restructuring and Collaboration Fund, and for the academic year of 2004-05, a sum of $203 million will be made available to support restructuring and collaboration activities of the institutions."

The possibility of a merger between HKUST and CUHK was put forward in late 2002, and the UGC was subsequently asked to undertake a study to investigate the possibility of a merger between the two institutions specifically, as well as the subject of institutional integration in general, including possible approaches, potential benefits, financial and staff implications etc. The UGC established an Institutional Integration Working Party in August 2003, under the Convenorship of John Niland, to undertake the study which met, inter alia, Reference Groups and student representatives of the two universities concerned.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004