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UGC releases "Governance in UGC-funded Higher Education Institutions in Hong Kong" report

The University Grants Committee (UGC) released the "Governance in UGC-funded Higher Education Institutions in Hong Kong" report today (March 30), after the Government's endorsement of the overall direction and recommendations of the report.

The Chairman of the UGC, Mr Carlson Tong, was very pleased to learn of the Government's endorsement. "The UGC has always understood the importance of robust governance at institutions. With the completion of the review of their financial governance, the UGC considered it an appropriate time to accept the invitation of the Education Bureau in December 2013 to study institutional governance," he said.

Mr Tong believed that the international good practices identified in the study provide useful pointers and advice on governance of higher education institutions for UGC-funded institutions to draw upon. "I am confident that adoption of the report recommendations will help to further enhance the effectiveness and transparency of the councils of institutions, and better equip council members with the necessary knowledge, skills and protocol with regard to their roles for the proper discharge of their duties," he said. He stressed that the study did not intend to conduct an audit of the governance structure or performance of individual institutions.

The report points out that the core values of institutional autonomy and academic freedom, balanced with public accountability, are underpinned and protected by effective governance of institutions. Effective governance can assure public trust in institutional autonomy of our funded institutions, and hence its legitimacy. With its many achievements, the UGC funded sector enjoys an excellent international reputation. Good governance will help ensure that institutions will continue to flourish in the future.

"I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to Sir Howard Newby for his assistance in embarking on the study. His rich experience and expertise in university governance and management has enabled the successful completion of such an insightful report. I am also grateful to a wide range of key stakeholders of the UGC sector, in particular the leadership of the eight UGC-funded institutions, who have provided valuable input and earnest views during the study," Mr Tong added.

Following the Government's endorsement, the UGC will set up a task force to be led by Sir Howard Newby to follow up on the implementation of the recommendations. UGC-funded institutions will be fully consulted in the implementation stage.


In its Higher Education Review Report issued in March 2002, the UGC recommended that, among others, each institution should carry out a review of the fitness for purpose of its governance and management structures, including its governing council. After the recommendation was accepted by the Government, the eight UGC-funded institutions carried out and completed reviews of their governance structures.

With the completion of the structural reviews, the Education Bureau considered it a suitable time to conduct a further study that would focus on governance practices. At the Education Bureau's request in December 2013, the UGC embarked on a study on governance of UGC-funded institutions. The study aims to identify some international good practices in the governance of higher education institutions, with which pointers and advice are drawn up to help enhance the effectiveness and transparency of the governing councils of UGC-funded institutions and also to better equip council members with the necessary knowledge, skills and protocol for the proper discharge of their duties. Sir Howard Newby, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool who has rich experience in university governance and management, was commissioned by the UGC to conduct the study and prepare the report. Sir Howard has also been the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol and the University of Southampton, the Chief Executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England and a former member of the Quality Assurance Council under the aegis of the UGC.

The report was endorsed by the UGC in September 2015 and was submitted to the Government for consideration in the same month. The review report in English and Chinese is available at the UGC website: www.ugc.edu.hk. A list of the report recommendations is at Annex.

Ends/Wednesday, March 30, 2016


List of Recommendations

Recommendation 1

Consideration should be given by institutions and the Government to the processes of training and continuing professional development of council members, so that they may discharge their duties in a more informed manner. The identification of candidates should be made with regard to a skills template which each institution should draw up and keep under review. Induction should be undertaken by both the UGC, with regard to sector-wide issues, and by each institution in respect of individual institutions.

Recommendation 2

In order to ensure that the fiduciary responsibilities of council members strike an appropriate and sustainable balance between institutional autonomy and public accountability the UGC should create a mechanism to explore, drawing upon international good practice, the establishment of a written accountability framework on which the vice-chancellor / president and the council report annually.

Recommendation 3

Council has a vital role in strategic planning, the latter seen as a process which clearly sets out institutional priorities and forms the basis of the council's assessment of institutional performance. In order to discharge this role each university should draw up a set of key performance indicators which are timely and relevant and which allow council to assess the progress towards the priorities agreed in the strategic plan.

Recommendation 4

The oversight of risk management, whereby the council is satisfied that major institutional risks - both financial and reputational - have been clearly identified and are being effectively managed, is an irreducible responsibility of council. Each council should therefore draw up a risk register which is reviewed at least annually and, ideally, more frequently.

Recommendation 5

Each council should publish a scheme of delegation which sets out the sub-structure of its committees and includes the mechanism whereby council is satisfied that the related managerial oversight of university activities is being effectively handled, including appropriate delegation and reporting mechanisms.

Recommendation 6

The UGC should undertake a review of university governance on a regular basis, ideally every five years.