Home > UGC Publications > Speeches and Articles > 2000 > Extract of Speech by Mr P T Cheung JP, Secretary-General, UGC, at the Prize-giving Ceremony for 1999-2000 of Government Evening Secondary Course - (Queen Elizabeth School Centre) (24.11.2000)

Extract of Speech by Mr. Peter P. T. Cheung, JP, Secretary-General, University Grants Committee

at Government Evening Secondary School Course - (Queen Elizabeth School Centre)
and Prize-giving Ceremony for 1999-2000 on 24 November 2000

Education is about choice. You choose the system and the system chooses you. One of these days, you will face or be faced with those choices. Perhaps it will be of interest if we now peep into the future of Higher Education together and think about the implications of the changes, for Hong Kong in general and for you, or your children in due course, in particular. What I am going to lay out are not original. Mostly they represent trends identified, some even proven; or scenarios played out by experts in the education field. The timeframe is various but personally I will be very surprised if the majority of them do not happen within the next decade. Authoritative as these may sound, you must not take them as given. For in this world of rapid changes, changes on changes are not only possible but are to be expected.

Some pointers :

  1. The shelf life of knowledge is getting shorter, much shorter than the shelf life of the individual. 'Having studied' is no longer good. People cannot expect to be in one job or one line of business for very long. Employment might be mixed-mode, parallel or broken, and so might studying. 'Life learning accounts', which will include education in the traditional sense, skills and, much more importantly, exposure or life experiences, will take the place of 'qualifications', especially from the angle of 'end-users'.

  2. The monopoly of knowledge will be broken: globalisation of brand name universities, 'click' and 'brick' universities, the entrepreneurial ones, intrusion from the 'carriers'(e.g. communications/publication houses, the IT operators) and from the 'end users' (industry programmes), other new players ('remedial' community colleges, customised articulation services, etc)

  3. It will be multi-entry and multi-exit, spanning over a lifetime. A passport or an 'a la carte' approach possible.

  4. Learning dictates teaching. Market drives when funding follows the student.

  5. The competition for learning time. Anything less than visual will be too dull. Marketing campaigns, 'star' professors, 'hit' programmes and 'popular' universities. A service industry in its own right bordering on 'infotainment'?

  6. Proliferation of qualifications (and universities). What does a degree mean? Teaching time? Learning time? Contact time? Or just seat time? A qualification framework and a credit unit system possible. But who will do it and who will be responsible for quality (Global? Government-or-industry-sanctioned?)?

  7. The endangered species: mission and role of universities, academic freedom, institutional autonomy, the campus life, upstream research, the nexus between teaching and research, 'services', pure arts and sciences.

  8. What of social justice? Equal education opportunities the key to social mobility. Government intervention is required but public funding in any case is limited. The market is by nature shortsighted and socially 'unfair'.

The prognosis foregoing is a mixed bag of good news and genuine problems. Like it or not, however, there is no prospect of fighting back the wave.