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UGC releases Aspirations for the Higher Education System in Hong Kong report

The University Grants Committee (UGC) submitted to the Government today (1 December 2010) its report "Aspirations for the Higher Education System in Hong Kong".

Speaking at the press conference, The Hon. Mrs Laura M. Cha, Chairman of the UGC, said, "the UGC is very pleased to submit its Review Report to the Government today. With the helpful input from a wide range of stakeholders, following extensive consultations, we were able to reflect on a wide range of issues pertinent to the post-secondary education sector. Our aim has been to examine the entire sector with a view to offering recommendations on appropriate strategies for the future development of post secondary education in Hong Kong."

"In recent years, the Government's policy in encouraging private sector provision of post-secondary education while continuing its support for the UGC sector has resulted in a flourishing post-secondary education sector in Hong Kong where more students than before have the opportunity to pursue further education after secondary school. We believe strongly that Hong Kong now needs a more integrated post-secondary education system that can provide clear progression pathways for students. The progression framework should include a robust Credit Transfer and Accumulation System and more publicly funded senior year places. We are pleased that the Chief Executive has already announced in his recent Policy Address the doubling of such places to 4,000 per year, " said the Chairman of the UGC.

"The higher education sector should also help Hong Kong retain its uniqueness as an international city, and at the same time maintain close relationship with the Mainland system. To this end, we need to enhance the international character of faculty, students, and curricula, and to nurture our local students not only to be biliterate and trilingual, but also to be competitive in the globalized world," Mrs Cha added.

Sir Colin Lucas, Convenor of the Higher Education Review Group (HERG) which was set up under the UGC to take forward this review, added, "We believe that the post-secondary education system is in good health. But there are challenges both from a system perspective – coherence of oversight – as well as access – better articulation between the publicly-funded and self-financed parts of the sector at various levels."

"Hong Kong has always been an international city and this is important also to its higher education sector. The sector should develop more graduate and research programmes, combining Asian and Western perspectives, while deepening collaboration with the Mainland, more particularly in the Pearl River Delta region. Apart from providing additional resources for such initiatives, the Government should work with the institutions to provide more hostel places for both local and non-local students as a matter of urgency. We should also seek to broaden local students' horizon by providing more high quality exchange opportunities," said Sir Colin Lucas.

Mrs Cha said, "the report makes a number of recommendations which will facilitate UGC-funded institutions in their pursuit of excellence in teaching and research for the benefit of Hong Kong. We have also reflected on the present structure's fitness of purpose, including the role of the UGC itself, and come up with two major recommendations for the Government to consider. Specifically, there should be an oversight body, similar to the UGC, for the privately-funded sector of higher education. There should also be a unified body overseeing all quality matters of the post secondary school system, whilst the Education Bureau assumes an overall supervisory role for the entire sector."

The UGC Chairman added, "we hope that the report would assist the Government and the public in reflecting on the strategies for Hong Kong's post-secondary education system. We also hope that it will stimulate interest and debate on this important issue for the better future of the sector and the whole of Hong Kong."

Background of the Review

The Report of the Higher Education Review 2002 suggested the UGC conduct a further review of the sector, and the UGC took this up in 2009. In addition to assessing the implementation of the 2002 Review which focused principally on the UGC sector, this review, with the Government's agreement, was expanded to cover the entire post-secondary education sector.

This review was conducted by Higher Education Review Group ("HERG"), which comprised local and overseas members of the UGC (the Group's Terms of Reference and Membership are at the UGC website - http://www.ugc.edu.hk/eng/ugc/about/organisation/membership/herg.html). The UGC discussed various aspects of the report over several meetings before fully adopting the report.

During the review, HERG commissioned expert reports on the development of higher education in other parts of the world. The Group also consulted widely through invitation of written submissions in May 2009, organisation of several consultation fora in 2009 and 2010, and individual face-to-face discussions with the key stakeholders in the post-secondary education sector. The views and ideas collected have helped shape the content and recommendations of the UGC's report.

The report is submitted to the Government by the UGC, and is simultaneously released to the public. A copy of the report is accessible at the UGC website (http://www.ugc.edu.hk/eng/ugc/about/publications/major_reports.html), and the list of the report’s recommendations is attached at the Annex.

UGC Secretariat
1 December 2010



  1. Government policy should treat all elements of post-secondary educational provision as a single interlocking system for strategic and planning purposes, including both privately and publicly funded institutions.
  2. There should be a single oversight body for the non-publicly funded part of the post-secondary education system.
  3. There should be a clear differentiation of roles throughout the post-secondary education system to ensure full diversity of provision.
  4. There should be greater clarity about the character of the Associate Degree and its place in the structure of the qualifications offered by the post-secondary education system.
  5. Pathways for student progression through the whole post-secondary system and between its parts should be made clearer, including for those returning to education at different times.
  6. A transparent and trustworthy Credit Accumulation and Transfer System should be developed for the whole post-secondary system.
  7. Manpower planning requirements in the allocation of first-year, first-degree places should be abolished or considerably loosened.
  8. There should be a comprehensive review of the future provision and distribution of lifelong learning opportunities throughout the post-secondary system.
  9. UGC-funded institutions should review, develop where necessary and implement internationalisation strategies as a matter of urgency. The UGC should monitor agreed Key Performance Indicators in each institution. The Government should adopt a strategy for internationalisation that includes collaboration with universities. Both should make long-term and sustained commitments to these strategies.
  10. A forum should be established to facilitate collaboration between the Government, universities and the UGC in identifying and implementing effective policies and initiatives, and for spreading best practices regarding internationalisation.
  11. An additional funding stream should be attributed to the UGC to fund internationalisation initiatives and allocated through the Academic Development Planning process.
  12. Universities should develop appropriate strategies for the recruitment of international students. The Government should actively support this through its official overseas offices.
  13. The Government, working with the institutions, should increase hostel accommodation for local and non-local students as a matter of urgency.
  14. UGC-funded institutions should increase their efforts to provide support resources and opportunities for non-local students to integrate them better with the local student body.
  15. The number and variety of overseas study opportunities for local students should be increased significantly. Funding should be provided for this, and credits should be attached to these programmes.
  16. Institutions should make renewed efforts to ensure and enhance students' biliterate (Chinese and English) and trilingual (Cantonese, Putonghua and English) abilities.
  17. UGC-funded institutions should actively maintain the international mix of their faculty.
  18. The higher education sector should develop a number of jointly funded and staffed international centres for high quality research and graduate programmes combining Asian and Western perspectives.
  19. Institutions should establish a clear strategy for developing different types of relationships with the Mainland, and in particular the Pearl River Delta.
  20. The Government should initiate negotiations with relevant authorities on the Mainland with a view to easing regulatory requirements in teaching and research collaboration with Mainland institutions, especially the portability of research funding.
  21. The UGC should ensure that it uses the tools at its disposal to assess and reward evidence of teaching excellence, both at the system level and at the funding level. Sector-wide surveys and assessments of student learning outcomes should be developed and published.
  22. UGC-funded institutions should place as much emphasis on the assessment of competence in teaching as they do on research. They should collectively consider the establishment of communities of practice to promote sector-wide collaboration on teaching and learning issues.
  23. UGC-funded institutions should seek to adopt the approaches outlined in the Review for the improvement of teaching and learning in areas related to faculty development and the strengthening of the teaching-research nexus. They should report on their implementation no later than 2015.
  24. The Government should further develop its R&D policy and ensure that it dovetails more effectively with the four pillar and six new industries identified by the Government for targeted development.
  25. Research funding and resources should be allocated increasingly on a competitive basis.
  26. The access of private universities to competitive research funding should be reviewed periodically.
  27. There should continue to be role differentiation between UGC-funded institutions to ensure the best deployment of public resources.
  28. The funding regime should assess and reinforce role differentiation and performance in role within the UGC-funded sector.
  29. The UGC should transition to a funding regime based on the assessed quality of outputs and outcomes, reducing the current regulatory burden.
  30. The funding regime should reflect high-quality teaching outcomes.
  31. A thorough review of the practical effectiveness of the periodic Research Assessment Exercise should be undertaken before it is held again.
  32. Means of assessing the quality of research postgraduate students emerging from the system should be implemented to inform decisions on the allocation of research postgraduate places.
  33. Public funds should not be used by UGC-funded institutions as cross-subsidies for self-financing educational activities. There should be greater transparency in the financial relationship between UGC-funded institutions and self-financing courses either within the institution or in an affiliate, such as a community college.
  34. The community college operations of UGC-funded institutions should be completely separated from their parent institutions within three years of the acceptance of this recommendation.
  35. There should be a single quality assurance body for the whole post-secondary system.
  36. The single body should integrate the methods and approaches of quality assessment, validation and accreditation across the system.
  37. The development of a Credit Accumulation and Transfer System for the whole system requires it to be appropriate for articulation between different levels and across different institutions at the same level.
  38. There should be greater transparency and public disclosure of quality assessment so that the public may make better-informed choices over time.
  39. A coordinating committee comprising the chairpersons of the various oversight bodies in the post-secondary education sector should be established under the chairmanship of the Secretary for Education.
  40. The Education Bureau should be provided with appropriate and sufficient human/financial resources to allow it to fulfil an expanded role in overseeing the whole post-secondary sector.