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Symposium on "Student Admissions to Universities Under the "3+3+4" Transition"

Hosted by HKUST
25 April 2009 (Saturday)

Speech by Mr Michael V STONE, JP
Secretary-General, University Grants Committee

Roland[CHIN], Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning. I am happy to join colleagues in the education sector again in this symposium today. Your presence in this very meaningful event shows our shared commitment to achieving a successful transition to the new four-year undergraduate system, and to seizing the opportunity of "3+3+4" to deliver the best tertiary education to our young people.

The UGC-sponsored Symposia

The University Grants Committee (UGC) considers that, given the many interrelated issues involved, active discussion and experience sharing not only among the UGC-funded institutions, but also with interested parties outside the sector, will contribute a lot to the "3+3+4" preparation. Against this background, the UGC has agreed to sponsor 12 "3+3+4" joint activities, and is very grateful that the eight institutions are enthusiastic and supportive in organizing these events.

The first "3+3+4" symposium in December was on the interface issues under the education reform. Among the various topics, "student admissions" was probably one of the most intensively-discussed topics. The symposium today underlines the importance of this critical area. It is also timely because the Government, the UGC and the eight UGC-funded institutions are actively considering this big subject. I am going to pose some issues now being deliberated, and your views and feedback will be very helpful.

Student Places for the Double Cohort

Student Admission is within institutions' autonomy. While the UGC does not interfere with admission decisions of the institutions, it shares the sector's need to develop an appropriate system to facilitate the matriculation of secondary school graduates to tertiary education. In 2012, the existing quota of 14,500 First-Year-First-Degree (FYFD) places will double to 29,000 to cater for the needs of the double cohort. Since the additional FYFD places are needed for the extra cohort, and to avoid direct competition between the two groups of students, the UGC is of the view that the 29,000 FYFD quota should be equally shared by students graduated from the current and new secondary education systems in 2012. In other words, there will be 14,500 places for each cohort. We think it is important to reassure students and parents from both cohorts that they will be fairly treated.

Admission of Non-JUPAS Intakes

However, students do not come with homogenous qualifications. Apart from the present Advanced Level and the new Diploma in Secondary Education examinations, students with other qualifications also apply and gain admission to Year 1 of the UGC-funded programmes. These include an increasing number of AD/HD graduates, as well as non-local and International Baccalaureate students. Roughly about 10% of first-year intakes are now sub-degree graduates. How should the system handle their applications? In the transitional year of 2012, on what criteria will the institutions determine if students with alternative qualifications should be admitted to 3-year or 4-year undergraduate programme? Is a consensus among the institutions necessary on this front, so that both parents and students can be assured?

At present, the institutions admit students through both the JUPAS and non-JUPAS routes, and their relative numbers remain a decision of the institutions. Following the trends in the past few years, and with a doubling of FYFD places in 2012, we expect to see more applications via the non-JUPAS route. But will there also be a doubling? If I have worked matters correctly, there will be one cohort of sub-degree graduates in 2012 - but not two. What implications does this have? Which programme (3 year or 4 year) should these non-JUPAS applicants be admitted to? Should there be any general agreement to how the places be assigned to 3-year or 4-year programmes under this route? The UGC has invited the Heads of Universities Committee (HUCOM) to consider these important issues, and your views will be helpful to contribute to our joint deliberations.

A related question is how will the institutions actually handle the two cohorts, in terms of curriculum structure? How much scope for each cohort to enter a faculty - as opposed to a specified programme - and to have interdisciplinary opportunities? And will the two cohorts be on essentially different trajectories - or more on a single curriculum spine? But I am not sure these are questions for today?

Senior Year Articulation of Sub-degree Graduates

Speaking of sub-degree graduates, the articulation questions go beyond just Year 1 entry. There are some quite basic issues the UGC and the self-financing sectors should all be concerned about, given the very strong articulation demand from sub-degree graduates. I am not going to enter the field of whether the number of publicly funded senior year articulation places is adequate or not - let's leave that for another day. But I do think more thought needs to be given to the extent of academic coherence between the existing sub-degree courses and future undergraduate programmes. We currently have most students entering sub-degree programmes with Advanced Level qualifications, studying two years and then articulating into Year 2 of a 3-year programme, i.e. 4 years in total. Under the new undergraduate system, the funding provision assumes that the then students entering sub-degree programmes with Diploma will articulate into Year 3 of a 4-year programme, with credits given by the institutions having regard to the academic achievement of individual students and the academic programme requirements, i.e. again 4 years in total. Aside from somehow allowing such students to make up any shortfall, it seems the UGC-funded institutions and sub-degree providers will have to work very closely together on programme coherence if this is to work. How is this going to happen?


I think I should stop here and start listening now. But before I conclude, I would like, on behalf of the UGC, to express our sincere thanks to HKUST for organizing this event. With the university's careful planning, participants will be able to discuss the major issues associated with student admissions. I wish you all a fruitful discussion - and today's symposium great success.

Thank you very much. ENDS