Chapter 3: The Government's Advisors

3.1 In 1995-96, education accounted for some 21% of total recurrent public expenditure, and cost the Hong Kong taxpayer about HK$30,000 million. About 35% of this can be attributed to higher education. In trying to spend this money as wisely as possible, the Hong Kong Government has a number of advisors.

3.2 The Education Commission (EC) has the responsibility for advising government on the development of the education system as a whole. It recommends priorities and monitors the planning and development of education at all levels. Of its nineteen members, seventeen (including the Chairman) are from outside government. They include representatives of a wide range of educational bodies and major employers.

3.3 The University Grants Committee (UGC) advises government on the development and funding of higher education and is or will shortly be directly responsible for the public grants to the eight tertiary institutions listed in paragraph 2.2. In spite of its title the Committee has since its inception played a major planning role - hence its authorship of this report. It is important to realise that, although the Secretary-General of the UGC is the accounting officer for the public expenditure on UGC institutions, the Committee does not exercise a detailed control over the use of recurrent funds. After much discussion of its plans, money is normally given to each institution in the form of a triennial block grant with little or no restriction as to virement between activities. The UGC has at present five local business or professional members (one of whom is chairman), thirteen non-local academics and four local academics. The membership of the UGC, during the period when this report was being prepared, is shown at Annex G. The Committee has no constitutional size and there are no government members, but the staff of the secretariat are civil servants.

3.4 The Vocational Training Council (VTC) has a primary responsibility to advise government on technical education and industrial training. It includes four government officials but the remaining eighteen members (including the chairman) are drawn from industry, the professions and the universities. The VTC has twenty Training Boards which assess manpower needs for particular economic sectors and recommend how they may be met, in part by the use of the VTC's seven Technical Institutes and twenty-four training centres. From the point of view of higher education, however, the VTC's most important contribution is its responsibility for the two Technical Colleges at Chai Wan and Tsing Yi, which run higher diploma and higher certificate courses, some of them taken over from the former polytechnics.

3.5 The Research Grants Council (RGC) advises government, through the UGC, on the needs of tertiary institutions to undertake research, and the funding required. This funding is supplemented both by the use of block grant and by external research support by foundations, government departments, industry and commerce. Nevertheless, the RGC component, and its advice to government, is very important in providing a firm basis on which other research activity, often of an applied nature, can build. The RGC consists of six local and six overseas academics and three local businessmen and professionals. There are no government members.

3.6 The Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation (HKCAA) advises government, the UGC and professional bodies about the standards of degrees in non-university institutions in Hong Kong and about the quality of degree awards internationally. It also publishes an annual guide to courses offered in Hong Kong by institutions outside the territory (see paragraph. 2.10). It has twenty-two members who include local business people and industrialists and both local and overseas academics. For its institutional review and course validation teams, it draws on more than one thousand experts from all over the world.

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