Annex A - Interim Report


  1. In the late 1980's, the Government of Hong Kong took two decisions which were to produce major changes in the nature and scope of higher education. The first of these, taken in 1988, was that all students entering first degree programmes would in future do so following a two year sixth form course leading to the Advanced Level Examination. The second, taken in 1989, was that there should be a massive expansion of opportunity for undergraduate education.

  2. The structural change, which had particular implications for the Chinese University of Hong Kong because of its previous practice of taking most of its entrants after one year sixth form courses, was to be implemented by 1996-97. The expansion of first year, first degree places was to be completed by 1994-95.

  3. This interim report describes progress with the implementation of both of the Government's decisions. It does, however, also look beyond the conclusion of those changes, to the triennium 1995/98 and to the period up to and beyond 2001. Because this is an interim report, we do not merely describe and propose, but we also ask questions. It is our hope that our final report will be informed by a dialogue between Government and the UPGC in trying to find answers.

The Revised Structure of Tertiary Education

  1. In 1988, as a result of the recommendations of the Education Commission's Report No. 3 (ECR 3), the Government took a number of decisions which are given in Annex A. The most important of these was the move to a two year sixth form and A level examination for all entrants to first degree courses. The Chinese University of Hong Kong had hitherto taken the majority of its students after one year in the sixth form and thus offered four year undergraduate courses rather than the three year courses given in all other UPGC institutions.

  2. The Chinese University is now moving to a credit unit system in which the normal expectation is that a student entering after Secondary 7 will gain a degree following three years' study. The target percentages three year entrants are 50% for 1992/93, 70% for 1993/94 and 100% for 1994/95. This change has been a very difficult one for the university, involving not just the re-design of courses and the awkwardness of running four-year and three-year courses simultaneously, but more fundamental debates about the university's educational objectives. Great credit must be given to the staff of CUHK who have worked very hard to accomplish this transition successfully.

  3. Other Government decisions concerning course length (see Annex A) have occasioned little difficulty. In the interest of giving opportunity to the maximum number of potential entrants, the UPGC has discouraged increasing the length of undergraduate courses beyond three years, but there may be a small number of cases in the future where this can be justified.

  4. The Government's decision about the introduction of joint admissions procedures has been implemented in two stages. An interim Joint University and Polytechnic Admission System (JUPAS) was introduced in 1990-91, involving conditional offers at Secondary 6 Level, and this has been changed into its final form, with offers after A Level, for entrants in 1994-95. To complement JUPAS, the Polytechnics and the institutions of the Vocational Training Council have introduced for their 1993-94 intake to sub-degree courses a Joint Admission Scheme for Polytechnics, Technical Institutes and Colleges (JASPIC).

  5. The Government's request for the institutions to consider extending teaching time has met with only a modest response, mainly in complementary and foundation studies and remedial language courses, and there are no funding implications. The introduction of a credit unit system, also suggested by the Government, has occurred in the form of local schemes, but its systematic introduction on an inter-institutional basis is regarded as having a lower priority than other changes.

  6. The remaining decision by Government arising from ECR 3 was that additional resources should be provided for the remedial teaching of English. In fact no extra Government money was forthcoming for 1991-95, but the UPGC earmarked $25m in 1991-92, $30m in 1992-93, $35m in 1993-94 and $40m in 1994-95 to be added to the institutions' existing expenditure on language enhancement. The subject is a very important one, and institutions have been required to submit to the UPGC assessment reports on the language ability of their entrants and evaluation analyses of the effectiveness of their language enhancement programmes. We return to the matter of language capability in paragraph 25.

Expansion, 1991-95

  1. There had been growth of the UPGC institutions throughout the 1980's, but in October 1989 the Government announced its decision to undertake a massive expansion of tertiary education. The scale of the enterprise can be measured by the growth in the participation rate (the number of first year, first degree places available, compared with the size of the relevant age group (17-20):

  2. Table :Percentage of relevant age group for whom FYFD places available

Table: Percentage of Relevant Age Group for Whom FYFD Places Available
  1. It was the Government's intention that by 1994-95 the participation rate should reach 18%. In the initial planning it was believed that this would require the provision of 15,000 first year, first degree (FYFD) places by that year, but revised population figures derived from the 1991 census led to this being reduced to 14,500.

  2. Although Government defined its needs in relation to undergraduate provision, it deferred much more to advice from the UPGC and the institutions concerning postgraduate numbers. There are many considerations here, often pulling in contrary directions. As far as research postgraduates are concerned, they are needed by the institutions themselves for a number of reasons. One is that they provide the future academic staff, and we were conscious that the lack of postgraduates in the past meant that almost none of the staff needed for the current expansion could come from within Hong Kong. Another reason for having research postgraduates is that, particularly in laboratory-based subjects, they provide the labour force upon which staff research depends. Postgraduates often also make a valuable contribution to teaching.

  3. The extent to which the community, as opposed to the institutions, needs trained research workers is debatable. Hong Kong industry tends to import the results of basic research rather than undertake it. But evaluation of the usefulness of others' research may not be possible unless one has research experience oneself. Certainly the steady upgrading of desirable skills in many forms of employment in Hong Kong suggests that the demand for post-doctoral labour will grow.

  4. Whatever may be the demand for those with research training, the institutions' capacity to provide them was clearly limited by the number of staff competent to supervise research students and the resources - human, equipment and library - available. We were, however, encouraged by the Government's acceptance that the time had come to put rather more resources into research via various agencies including the creation of the Research Grants Council.

  5. The demand for taught postgraduates is in some professional areas (such as law or teacher education) quite well defined and reasonably predictable. In others such as engineering or management it can fluctuate. This is, however, the one activity where higher education institutions can respond very rapidly to the needs of commerce and industry, providing specialist courses to disseminate new knowledge or for the training or re-training of staff to meet changing employment opportunities. We have little doubt that the need for taught postgraduate courses of this kind will grow with the increasing sophistication of employment in Hong Kong. Additionally, taught postgraduate courses are in some subjects now required as precursors to research degrees. The overall level of provision depends on demand, on the source of funding, and on priorities within higher education.

  6. The Government's proposals for the expansion of tertiary education covered not only the UPGC-funded institutions. They also envisaged some transfer (within constant total numbers) of sub-degree places from the Polytechnics to the institutions of the Vocational Training Council (VTC). At the same time the Government established an Open Learning Institute to provide higher education, mainly for adults, through part-time distance learning.

  7. Taking into account all of the considerations in paragraphs 10 to 16 above, together with the physical capacities of existing and projected buildings, the UPGC advised Government that the expansion 1991-95 should be accomplished by the provision of places by institution, by level and by year as shown in Annex B. This result was, of course, only achieved after an enormous amount of work by the institutions in academic and financial planning, complicated by substantial last-minute revisions when the 1994-95 FYFD target was changed from 15,000 to 14,500 places (see paragraph 11).

  8. It is too early to comment on all aspects of progress in the expansion of higher education 1991-95, but one area where there was considerable concern, staff recruitment, seems to be satisfactory. It was expected that obtaining some 3,000 academic staff over a comparatively short period, nearly all from outside Hong Kong, might prove difficult, both in terms of numbers and quality. However, world recession and stagnation in academic development elsewhere, combined with vigorous recruitment by the institutions supported by joint publicity efforts, seems so far to have produced good results in most disciplines.

  9. Another initial worry was that in the middle years of the expansion there might be difficulty in recruiting enough well-qualified matriculants. Enrolment figures for 1992-93, however, now show that the institutions have over-filled their FYFD places for that year by 1,083 students. There has been concern expressed about the proficiency of the lowest graded entrants, particularly with regard to language skills, but it must be remembered that by world standards, Hong Kong is still admitting a relatively small fraction of the age group to tertiary education.

  10. The UPGC will continue to monitor the 1991-95 expansion closely both in terms of numbers and quality.

Higher Education after 1995

  1. In considering the development of higher education after 1995, the UPGC has two tasks. The first is, in dialogue with Government, to determine the long term role of higher education in Hong Kong. The second task, more pragmatic but interdigitated with the first, is to give specific advice for the triennium 1995-98. The long term view is partly philosophical and partly numerical. The numerical data are only available up to 2001, which is why we have titled our interim report "Higher Education, 1991-2001", but the philosophical considerations extend well beyond that date.

  2. One very important question which needs to be addressed is the balance of provision between initial higher education and the updating and re-orientation of knowledge which may be required throughout an individual's working life. Hitherto the emphasis in Hong Kong has been largely on first degrees, with the UPGC-funded institutions playing the major role. Elsewhere in the world, the last few years have seen an upsurge in the demand for continuing professional education (CPE). The pressure has come partly from employers, seeking a better or more appropriately skilled workforce, partly from individuals hoping to enhance their career prospects and partly from customers dissatisfied with out-of-date services. It seems very probable that a similar demand will grow in Hong Kong.

  3. We have already commented on one aspect of this "through life" education in paragraph 15 - postgraduate courses taught in academic departments of UPGC institutions, and inspired to some extent by the research being undertaken there. The need, however, is much more diverse than that, ranging from a single day on a narrow topic to part-time courses spread over several years. Provision may be made by UPGC-funded institutions through extra mural or CPE departments, by the OLI, or in some cases by industry itself. The mode of delivery may be within institutions, at the work place or by distance learning. In addition to the improvement or reshaping of employment skills, there is likely in an increasingly affluent and sophisticated society to be a growth also in demand for "leisure" skills and for courses in the arts and the more accessible popular sciences.

  4. Both the work and leisure elements will place an increasing load on the UPGC-funded and other institutions, and we need to be sure that that load is supported by separate and adequate financial provision and not by diverting block grant funds intended for other purposes. Much of the cost of CPE or "leisure" courses should be met by the employer or the student, but there may still be a need for a Government input, particularly in providing for development into new areas. We are undertaking a study of continuing education in Hong Kong and we shall be returning to this matter in our final report.

  5. The transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong to China in 1997 means that the role of the UPGC-funded institutions has to be considered in the context of the hinterland in ways which have not obtained hitherto. There are at least three possible scenarios :

    1. The institutions should limit their interests to local student recruitment and the local labour market. Teaching might gradually be given more and more in Cantonese. In time the institutions could become indistinguishable from many similar ones in the neighbouring province.

    2. The institutions should limit their interests to local recruitment and the local labour market, but should make a positive stand on bilingualism. This would require much more effort than is being made at present. Their graduates would be distinguished from those in the hinterland primarily because of their communication skills (including fluency in English) and this would help to maintain Hong Kong's international position.

    3. The institutions should incorporate centres of excellence having local, regional and international functions. They should provide very high quality bilingual manpower for both Hong Kong and the hinterland and should act as points of reference, particularly in Business and Social Studies and in innovative science and technology for developments in Southern China and more widely. Some undergraduate students and many postgraduate students would be ecruited from outside Hong Kong.

  6. The first of these options more or less represents a policy of drift. The second requires modest additional resources and, more important, an effort of will on the part of the institutions. The third option is the one favoured by the UPGC, since the Committee believes that if Hong Kong is to retain a leading position in the commercial and industrial development of China and the Pacific rim, it will need world-class higher education institutions. The only justification for the additional resources which would be needed for this option is the benefit to Hong Kong itself. In the next paragraph we describe in a little more detail some of the implications of option (iii).

    1. There is no such thing as an excellent university. Indeed it is only rarely that every part of an academic department can be said to be of excellent quality. What we hope to foster within our institutions is a number of excellent groups, recognised internationally as of equal status to their peers in the same subject area, and justifying the investment in state-of-the-art facilities and activity which will maintain them among the world leaders. We hope that a significant proportion of these "centres of excellence" will be working in areas of direct interest to Hong Kong industry, commerce and culture and that their existence will precipitate curriculum development which is also locally and regionally orientated.

    2. The existence of internationally recognised "centres of excellence" has a catalytic effect in an institution far beyond the subjects directly concerned. It produces a liveliness and confidence in teaching and research and in overseas contacts which will help in the production of the high quality bilingual manpower to which we referred in paragraph 25.

    3. Undergraduates at world-class institutions benefit from contact with fellow students from other countries and other cultures, and the institution and the host country almost certainly enjoy long term advantages in such areas as recruitment, diplomacy and trade. We believe that Hong Kong should encourage a small number of such external undergraduates, particularly but not exclusively from the Pacific rim. The numbers should be within approved targets.

    4. The arguments which exist for recruiting external undergraduates apply much more forcibly to postgraduates. There are no national boundaries to intellectual enquiry, and high grade institutions require an influx of ideas from all over the world. Movement of postgraduate students (and staff) is a prerequisite for maintaining a leading position. We would hope that our institutions might have up to one-third of their postgraduate students from outside Hong Kong. In the sciences, most of these would be from North America, Japan and Europe, but we would hope also to see students from such countries as China and Russia, which have excellence in more limited areas. Again, the numbers would be within approved targets.

    5. The creation of centres of excellence is not something which can be done by Government or the UPGC. They can only be facilitators and motivators. The prime movers must be enthusiastic and committed staff within the institutions, supported by organisational structures which reward initiative and encourage the inter-institutional collaboration (intra and extra Hong Kong) which is essential to high level research and teaching.

    6. The purpose of investing in world-class higher education institutions in Hong Kong is to improve the economic performance of Hong Kong itself, but the existence of such institutions and the opportunities which they would offer, particularly in such areas as technology transfer, would undoubtedly be of benefit to the hinterland as well.

    7. It is very difficult to predict a precise cost for the kind of development of our institutions which we envisage in option (iii). However, we believe that a realistic figure is of the order of 10% above current projections. The Committee is at present engaged in a number of measures, including radical changes to our funding methodology, which are expected to produce efficiency gains of some 5%. We therefore suggest that option (iii) could be achieved for a net additional investment of about 5%.

  7. A decision as to the future role of our institutions cannot be delayed for very long. There will be universities in southern China with ambitions similar to those in paragraphs 25(ii) and (iii). The only advantages that the Hong Kong institutions possess are a few years' head start and an edge in areas like human resource base, infrastructure, libraries, etc. We believe that Government should treat as a matter of urgency the formulation of a new higher education policy which takes into account, inter alia, the changing relationship with China, and the possible import of students and export of graduates worldwide, and technology transfer. The adoption of wider goals for Hong Kong's tertiary institutions could have implications for the 1995-98 triennium, and we return to the point in later paragraphs.

Student Numbers, 1995-2001

  1. The optimal provision of student places at the undergraduate level is conditioned by a number of factors of which the two most important are the supply of young people desiring higher education and qualified to benefit from it, and the employment opportunities for those graduating. Choosing the number of postgraduate places is a more complex matter and much more bound up with the differing perceived roles for the system which are described in paragraphs 21 to 28. Even excluding roles external to Hong Kong, considerations such as those in paragraphs 12 to 15 always need careful evaluation.

  2. In August 1992 we obtained from the Secretary for Education and Manpower a projection of the number of matriculants possessing at least two A-level passes and at least a grade E in use of English, which showed only slow growth up to 2001 :

  1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Matriculants 18,000 18,650 19,000 19,300 19,450 19,550 19,700

Of these matriculants, about 980 may be assumed to take up places in Colleges of Education or on sub-degree courses requiring A-level entry. On the other hand, there is a demand for FYFD places from qualified entrants other than current year matriculants of about 1,500. The total possible entry to the UPGC institutions thus becomes:

1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001
Maximum poss. entry 18,520 19,170 19,520 19,820 19,970 20,070 20,220

    which is to be compared with the 14,500 FYFD places available. The ratio of places to potential entrants is over 70% throughout the period, and this would seem to be entirely adequate in meeting needs from within Hong Kong. A decision to extend recruitment outside the territory (see paragraphs 25(iii) and 27(c)) could change this position slightly.

  1. In December 1991, the Education and Manpower Branch published a projection of manpower supply and requirements titled "Manpower Outlook in the 1990's" (MO). This projection states (MO paragraph 5.16) : "The major area of concern will be the manpower shortfall at the sixth form level. At present, sixth form education is available to just about one third of the children. Thus, there is still much scope for expanding the provision of education at this level in order to increase future supply." Any change of Government policy which increased the proportion of children offered sixth form education would clearly have profound effects on the calculations in paragraph 30. It has to be recognised that additional sixth formers, whatever the motivation for their production, are likely to be dissatisfied unless there is some corresponding increase in the provision of FYFD places.

  2. "Manpower Outlook in the 1990's" suggests (MO Table 5.2) that there will be a demand for 268,000 workers possessing first degree or higher qualifications in 2001, and that the available supply will be 291,000 of whom 114,800 will be new entrants to the workforce during 1997-2001, and 176,200 will be survivors from those in employment prior to 1997. The new entrants (MO paragraph 2.11) are divided into 20,900 immigrants and returned emigrants, 30,700 returned overseas graduates and 63,200 local graduates (including a small number from non-UPGC-funded institutions). The last figure is based upon 15,000 FYFD places throughout the period 1997-2001, and assumes no wastage. If the FYFD places are reduced to 14,500 and allowance is made for historic attrition rates, the estimate of local production is reduced by about 8,000 and the gap between supply and demand in 2001 becomes 15,000.

  3. An excess of 15,000 graduates in the labour force in 2001 (5.5%) seems comfortable enough and certainly provides no reason to increase FYFD places up to that year. It is, however, worth looking at the assumptions on which this is based :

    1. the "survivors" figure of 176,200 is based upon an emigration rate identical to that in 1990. Emigration of the highly qualified may well fluctuate considerably depending on perceptions of opportunity within and outside Hong Kong. Changes of this figure of a few thousand could easily occur.

    2. the 20,900 immigrants and returned emigrants are subject to the same considerations as the survivors, but because they must make a positive decision to come to Hong Kong,larger fluctuations (say 20%) would not be unexpected. The extent to which graduates from China may wish or be able to work in Hong Kong in future adds another uncertainty to the size of this group.

    3. the 30,700 returning overseas graduates may well be influenced by improving opportunities of employment in their countries of study as the world moves out of economic recession, and delay their return or not return at all. There is the further point that some of these may prefer to graduate in Hong Kong if overseas education becomes increasingly expensive. Fluctuations in the balance of supply and demand of a few thousand are readily possible.

    4. on the demand side, some employers believe that the "Manpower Outlook in the 1990's" projections are underestimates.

    5. there is no provision for supplying labour to the region (see paragraph 25(iii)). The situation here is complex. The export of both work and graduate workers from Hong Kong to China may have no effect on demand, but if there is increased opportunity for work expansion, demand may rise. Conversely, when work is exported, graduate workers may be attracted from non-Hong Kong sources and demand for HK production of graduates will fall. In this context, a recent study commissioned by the Business and Professionals Federation (BPF) suggests that our tertiary institutions should - "be required to offer more non-degree, and graduate and executive programmes in conjunction with overseas and Mainland universities."1

    None of these uncertainties gives reason to increase undergraduate places at present, but the situation should be closely monitored and the analysis of data relevant to the assumptions should continue.

"Hong Kong 21-A Ten Year Vision and Agenda to Hong Kong's Economy" report of a consultancy undertaken by Booz, Allen & Hamilton for the BPF (page 50)

  1. Although the overall balance of graduate supply and demand up to 2001 at present appears satisfactory, there may within a given total be variations in demand for particular subject skills. One such is the Government's recent request for additional graduate teachers (see paragraph 40). "Manpower Outlook in the 1990's" (MO Table I-2) gives some useful information, but more work is needed, possibly using institutions' own records of graduate employment, to relate occupations to first degree subjects, and thus occupational trends to changes in provision.

  2. On the postgraduate side, decisions about numbers will depend to some extent on the resolution of the questions raised in paragraphs 21 to 28. In the short term, after considering arguments similar to those adumbrated in paragraphs 12 to 15, we believe that there should be a modest increase in both research and taught postgraduates. We are particularly conscious that this highest echelon of qualified manpower is the most volatile in terms of emigration since there are always good employment opportunities elsewhere. In the longer term, the supply of postgraduate labour to China may be an important role for Hong Kong's tertiary institutions.

The Triennium 1995-98

  1. An early decision by Government favouring an enhanced regional role for higher education (paragraph 28) could have an influence on student numbers during the next triennium, but at present this is difficult to quantify. Pending such a decision, we propose in line with the arguments of the preceding paragraphs that the triennium 1995-98 should be a period of consolidation as far as undergraduate numbers are concerned, with total intake static at 14,500 FYFD places. The roll-on effect of increasing intakes in earlier years ("natural growth") means that total undergraduate numbers will increase by about 12% over the triennium.

  2. We envisage taught postgraduate numbers increasing at about 8% per annum, and research postgraduates at about 5% per annum, thus adding nearly 900 to each group. Sub-degree numbers will remain almost static, following significant decline in the UPGC institutions during 1991-95.

  3. Having determined overall numbers for the system, we need to distribute these between the institutions. Our choices here are necessarily influenced by physical limitations and by our view of the roles of the institutions and the ways in which they can best contribute to the needs of Hong Kong.

  4. The UPGC has recently promulgated a document entitled "Higher Education in Hong Kong", in which it describes the roles of the seven institutions for which the Committee is responsible. This document is reproduced in Annex C, and gives the roles of the institutions which the UPGC will use for planning and funding purposes "in the foreseeable future". The "foreseeable future" certainly covers the 1995-98 triennium and probably well beyond it.

  5. Our conclusions as to student numbers by institution, level and year for 1995-98 are given in Annex D. This Annex can be combined with Annex B to show the complete pattern of the expansion period and its aftermath. In addition to the student numbers shown in Annex D, we have to take account of the recommendations in Education Commission Report No. 5 for an increase in the number of graduate teachers. The recommendations and our proposals are given in Annex E.

  6. The changes described in the preceding paragraph will require us to be able to measure quality of performance and output. We shall be consulting the institutions as to how best this may be done. Irrespective of our desire to change our funding methodology, we believe that there will be increasing pressure from the community for intelligible quality assurance in the institutions which it funds and to this end the UPGC will be conducting quality audits. We also believe that Hong Kong will wish to be assured that those institutions use the funds which they are given in cost-effective ways, and this is something to which we shall be giving increased attention during the 1995-98 triennium.

Further work

  1. It is not our intention to draw conclusions in this interim report by the UPGC, except in proposing student numbers for the triennium 1995-98. Before we write our final report, we expect to have a much fuller picture of the successes and failures of both the revision of the structure of higher education and the massive expansion of numbers in which the institutions are at present engaged.

  2. But a clearer picture of the past is not sufficient. We need a clearer vision of the future. Hong Kong must take a view on what role it wishes its higher education institutions to play, particularly post-1997. As we have described in paragraphs 22 to 24, we are studying the balance between initial and continuing higher education. Partly bound up with this is the utilisation of our capital plant and such issues as space norms. We shall be commenting on both of these matters in our final report. But even more important is the stance which we wish our institutions to take. Is their role to be local or regional? Is it to be inward-looking or outward-looking? How much should be invested and by whom?

  3. We have already given our opinion (paragraph 26) that Hong Kong needs, for its own economic health, world class higher education institutions which will draw upon and contribute to China and the Pacific rim. But this implies growth, both in quantity and quality, and only Government (which must be the main provider) can decide whether to make the necessary investment. That decision is needed urgently if our higher education institutions are to keep pace with development by others not very far way, and not to drift, by default, into becoming minor players in the Asian tertiary education scene.

  4. Our final report will address these issues in more detail. It needs to be informed by a dialogue between the Government and its higher education constituency, and that dialogue should begin as soon as possible.

University & Polytechnic Grants Committee
November 1993

The Government's decisions on the recommendations of
the Education Commission's Report No. 3 (ECR 3)

The Government decided that :

  1. at all tertiary institutions funded by the UPGC, the objective should be for all students to be accepted for first degree programmes after Secondary 7, following a two year sixth form course leading to the Advanced (A) Level Examination or to a combination of A and Intermediate levels. For existing courses, the transition to the proposed structure should be achieved by the end of the 1994-97 triennium. In considering any new courses in the 1991-94 triennium, the UPGC should take full account of the objective of having a common entry point after Secondary 7. In any event, as from the academic year 1994-95, all new courses should conform with the new structure;

  2. the length of new and existing first-degree courses should be determined by the tertiary institutions, in accordance with educational requirements, subject to the established procedures whereby course proposals are considered and assessed by the UPGC. In general, where more resources for tertiary institutions are available, the first priority should be to increase the number of students entering tertiary education each year;

  3. the length of first-degree courses at all UPGC-funded institutions should in principle be the same for any given subject;

  4. additional resources should be provided for the remedial teaching of English at tertiary institutions, where this can be shown to be justified;

  5. the tertiary institutions, in consultation with the UPGC, should consider:

    1. as a matter of priority, the introduction of joint admission procedures;

    2. the possibility of extending academic teaching time; and

    3. the adoption of a credit unit system.

Revised Targerts for the achievement of 
the government's decision on further expansion
of tertiary education

University and Polytechnic grants committee higher education in Hong Kong

  1. With effect from 1991-92, there are seven higher education institutions (HEIs) which are funded through the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee (UPGC). These institutions, listed alphabetically, are as follows :

    1. City Polytechnic of Hong Kong

    2. Hong Kong Baptist College

    3. Hong Kong Polytechnic

    4. Lingnan College

    5. The Chinese University of Hong Kong

    6. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

    7. The University of Hong Kong

  2. Each of these institutions is and will continue to be an autonomous corporation, with its own Ordinance and Governing Council. They have freedom to manage their internal affairs within the restraints of the Laws of Hong Kong. Because all are largely supported by public funds, and because of the social, cultural, and economic importance of higher education, the Government and the community at large have a legitimate interest in the operation of the institutions to ensure they are providing high standards of education in the most cost-effective manner. The UGC advises the Government on the development of these institutions and on their financial needs.

  3. The HEIs are diverse in character and in the differing contributions they make to the educational, cultural and economic development of Hong Kong. The differentiated roles of the institutions reflect their varying origins and the way they have responded to the complex and evolving needs of Hong Kong. At present CUHK, HKUST and HKU concentrate on first and higher degree work, emphasizing scholarship and research; CityU and PolyU offer a range of programmes including diplomas and postgraduate courses, with a strong emphasis on professional and vocational education; and HKBU and LC are developing as predominantly degree-awarding institutions, aiming at providing a broad general education rather than a specialised professional training.

  4. The distinctive and complementary roles of the institutions suit the community interest, making the best use of available resources. The UGC views the system of higher education as a whole and, as far as possible, seeks to reconcile the aspirations of individual institutions with the needs of the territory. The aim is to develop a system of higher education that has an appropriate balance between programmes at different levels and in different areas and in which the institutions make contributions to the community through the provision of trained manpower, research collaboration, consultancy and other means. The UGC is conscious that a degree of co-ordination is necessary to avoid over-provision and under-provision at particular levels and in certain areas. It may not be practicable to meet all the aspirations of all institutions. Nevertheless, the Committee recognises that teaching is the common denominator of the HEIs. It also fully appreciates that research and scholarly activities are essential to academic health.

  5. The Government decided in 1989 to implement an expansion plan for the UGC-funded sector during 1991-95, with a view to increasing the present provision of first-year first-degree places to 14,500 in 1994-95, thereby providing education for about 18% of the mean of the relevant age group. This was an ambitious expansion plan which allows the whole UGC-funded sector to increase substantially the provision of degree places, at both first-degree and postgraduate level. It meant that not only were there more students and new courses to be taught, but many more academic staff have been required to teach to degree level. Furthermore, postgraduate studies, taught and research, are being pursued in places where they had not been present previously, or where they had previously been present at a low level they have been significantly expanded.

  6. In such a situation the maintenance of academic standards in general and teaching standards in particular, is a major challenge, the more so in an environment of budgetary constraint. The UGC places particular emphasis on effective procedures for monitoring teaching and learning quality and cost-effectiveness. It recognizes that different methods of quality assurance may be appropriate in different situations and does not seek to prescribe any particular method as being of general application; however, it expects to see the full involvement of external advisors, assessors or examiners in such a way that they can have an effective influence on the system.

  7. This major expansion of the system of higher education will not have been fully effective unless there is proper scope for intellectual and professional development of academic staff to meet the new teaching challenges. For different individuals in different fields in different institutions professional development is achieved in different ways that include consultancy work, involvement in professional associations, advanced scholarship, editorial work, research and publication. The balance between these activities varies between institutions, between fields and between individuals.

  8. The Committee believes that its views on the role and importance of research should be clearly understood, and that the role of research in the newly evolving systme of Hong Kong higher eduction should be neither exaggerated nor underplayed. The UPGC has four main objectives in supporting research in Hong Kong HEIs :

    1. to contribute to the economic, cultural and social well-being of Hong Kong;

    2. to promote staff development and to train future academic staff;

    3. as an essential part of the training of research students; and

    4. to add to the sum of human knowledge.

    In many cases a particular activity will meet several or even all of these criteria. As one aspect of staff development and as one of the means by which individual staff members may maintain currency in their subjects, it is anticipated that some research will be done in all UPGC-funded institutions.

  9. The largest single commitment of UPGC resources to the support of research is staff time. All academic staff should have some available for career development and the pursuit of scholarship. However, the continued justification of the relatively favourable staff : student ratios that the UPGC has allowed, particularly in the existing universities, will depend upon their performance in research.

  10. For some kinds of research further resources are needed beyond the time of the staff concerned . These may include specialist library facilities, laboratories, computers or costly instrumentation. By various means the UPGC makes provision for these too. But whereas provision is made for all to have time for research, if an individual or institution needs further resources it is necessary to compete for these and to convince others that the proposed activity is worthwhile. Funds may be available form a researcher's own institution, form the Research Grants Council (RGC), from other public bodies, from industry or from private foundations. The RGC has been established to make grants mainly in response to competitive bids from staff members in any of the HEIs in Hong Kong and it makes its decisions after a process of peer review involving both domestic and international referees. All institutions will be expected to demonstrate fairness and discrimination in their internal procedures for allocation of research resources, channelling them to those individuals and those departments that will put them to best use.

  11. One likely consequence of budgetary constraint is the need to rationalise the provision and use of expensive facilities. It is to be expected over time that more than one institution will legitimately wish to carry out work requiring costly facilities of a prtucular kind. The UPGC/rgc may, as a condition of their support, require institutions to share facilities of this kind subject to reasonable safeguards both for the institutions that house the faciliteis concerned and for the users.

  12. Although the UPGC does not exclude the possibility of research activity of any particular kind in any of the institutions for which it is responsible, it expects that at any rate for the foreseeable future the principal responsbility for the training of research students will fall to the universities and they will receive appropriate funding for this purpose. The UPGC will keep its policies for the allocation of research support under review and will respond to changing circumstances within the institutions and outside them.

  13. Against the above background, the roles of the seven HEIs, as currently seen by the UGC in broad terms, are described in sub-paragraph (a)-(g) below. This description which is intended to be illustrative, rather than exhaustive, serves as the basis for the Committee's assessment of academic plans and cost estimates from the institutions.

    1. City Polytechnic of Hong Kong

      1. offers a range of courses leading to the award of Diplomas, Higher Certificates, Higher Diplomas and First Degrees;

      2. offers a relatively small number of higher degrees and has research programmes in some subject areas;

      3. emphasises the application of knowledge and vocational training; and

      4. maintains strong links with industry and employers.

    2. Hong Kong Baptist College

      1. provides predominantly courses at first degree level in Arts, Business, Communication Studies, Science and Social Sciences;

      2. offers a small number of higher degrees and has research programmes in some subject areas;

      3. emphasises a broad general education, to prepare students for entry to careers which require a wide intellectual background;

      4. runs courses which provide suitable preparation for a career in teaching at primary and secondary schools; and

      5. maintains strong links with the community.

    3. Hong Kong Polytechnic

      1. offers a range of courses leading to the award of Certificates, Diplomas, Higher Certificates, Higher Diplomas, Professional Diplomas and First Degrees;

      2. offers a relatively small number of higher degrees and has research programmes in some subject areas;

      3. emphasises the application of knowledge and vocational training; and

      4. maintains strong links with industry and employers.

    4. Lingnan College

      1. will offer first-degree courses in Arts, Business, and Social Sciences;

      2. provides a General Education Programme which seeks to offer all students a broad educational perspective;

      3. may run a small number of higher degree programmes and has research work in some subject areas; and

      4. maintains strong links with the community.

    5. The Chinese University of Hong Kong

      1. offers a range of programmes leading to the award of First Degrees and postgraduate qualifications;

      2. covers a range of subjects including Arts, Science, Social Science, and Business Administration;

      3. incorporates professional schools, such as Medicine, Architecture, Engineering and Education;

      4. offers research programmes for a significant number of students in every subject area; and

      5. provides scope for academic staff to undertake consultancy and collaborative projects with industry in areas where they have special expertise.

    6. The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

      1. provides a range of programmes leading to the award of First Degrees and postgraduate qualifications;

      2. includes professional schools, particularly in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Business;

      3. offers courses in Humanities and Social Science only at a level sufficient to provide intellectual breadth, contextual background and communication skills to an otherwise scientific or technological curriculum, and limited postgraduate work;

      4. offers research programmes for a significant number of students in every subject area; and

      5. provides scope for academic staff to undertake consultancy and collaborative projects with industry in areas where they have special expertise.

    7. The University of Hong Kong

      1. offers a range of programmes leading to the award of First Degrees and postgraduate qualifications;

      2. covers a range of subjects including Arts, Science, Social Sciences, and Business Administration;

      3. incorporates professional schools eg Medicine, Dentistry, Architecture, Education, Engineering and Law;

      4. offers research programmes for a significant number of students in every subject area; and

      5. provides scope for academic staff to undertake consultancy and collaborative projects with industry in areas where they have special expertise.

Student Number (Fte) Target for 1994-95 and Projections for
the 1995-98 Triennium (excluding blister programme of
B Ed in Primary Education)

Proposed student Intakes for Bed (Primary Education) Programmes


  1. Education Commission Report No. 5 state (para. 4.30) :

  2. "We recommend that pre-service degree courses in primary education be provided by conventional means. Initially such courses will need to be offered by tertiary institutions as a blister programme, but we envisage their transfer in due course to the upgraded colleges of education, once these are assessed as able offer degree courses."

  3. The Commission envisaged 150 fte places per annum.

  4. Since this is a short-term programme, the UPGC believes that it should be carried out in institutions already offering first degree courses in Education. We propose numbers as follows :

Institution 1994-95 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98
HKU Yr 1 50 50 50 50
  Yr 2 - 50 50 50
  Total 50 100 100 100
CUHK Yr 1 100 100 100 100
  Yr 2 - 100 100 100
  Total 100 200 200 200



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