Chapter 32 : The Roles of the Institutions

32.1 The current roles of the UGC institutions were given in Annex C of our Interim Report (see Annex A). We summarise those roles (with some simplification) in Table 32.1 :


Table 32.1 - Current Roles of UGC Institutions

Activities Institutions
  CityU and PolyU HKBU LC CUHK and HKU HKUST
Sub - degree work substantial        
First degree work substantial predominant predominant substantial substantial
Higher degrees some some minimal substantial substantial
Research some areas some areas some areas all areas all relevant areas
Professional Schools some     many some
Links with industry or community strong   strong high level high level

CityU and PolyU, which were until recently polytechnics, place emphasis on the application of knowledge and vocational training. HKBU and LC stem from a liberal arts tradition which regards breadth of education as important. CUHK, HKU and HKUST have major professional schools and substantial research programmes. CUHK and HKU are full-range universities and both have medical schools. HKIEd, which has recently joined the UGC, currently offers predominantly sub-degree programmes of teacher education and CPE for serving teachers, maintaining strong links with the teaching profession and the schools.

32.2 The mission of the VTC technical colleges, as described in their 1995-6 prospectus, is "to deliver high quality tertiary level education and training, leading to satisfactory employment prospects for students, and a foundation for their continued personal and professional development. To establish a close working relationship with commerce, industry and the wider community enabling the students and staff to help satisfy the needs of Hong Kong". The OLI dedicates itself to "providing sub-degree, degree and postgraduate courses leading to awards and qualifications principally through a system of open access and distance education; thereby making higher education available to all those aspiring to it regardless of previous qualification, gender, or race." The OLI believes that, in order to attract staff of adequate quality and to develop their capacities, it needs access to appropriate research facilities and funding. The VTC's institutions have so far not made a similar claim.

32.3 The objects of the APA are "to foster and to provide for training, education and research in the performing and related technical arts". The HKIEd intends to become "a centre of excellence in teaching education and the professional development of teachers". Its staff "actively contribute to practical research and curriculum development". Caritas Adult and Higher Education Service was founded with the purpose of "providing educational opportunities for those who were unable to continue their formal education in the established structures." Currently its Francis Hsu College provides students with "a range of opportunities for higher education and professional training", in practice mostly relevant to commercial employment. Other colleges have roles which satisfy particular niches of the labour market and which in some cases reflect particular philosophies of their founders.

32.4 All institutions of higher education have ambitious aspirations for their future role, ranging over making more financial profit, widening their subject coverage or being associated with a major scientific breakthrough. All of these goals are individually laudable but, taken collectively over the higher education system, the totality may not make much sense in terms of the needs of the people of Hong Kong. For example, most institutions, and the individual members of academic staff in them, would like to be renowned for world class research, which is quite impracticable in terms of intellectual, capital and recurrent resources. Rather fewer of them have ambitions to be renowned for world class teaching, which is entirely practical and of much more value to Hong Kong.

32.5 It is not the purpose of the UGC in advising government as to the future of higher education in Hong Kong to frustrate ambition, but it is our job to tell government how the needs of Hong Kong can most effectively be met by the present and future institutions. It has always been, and remains, our view that this is best achieved by diversity rather than uniformity. A system in which each higher education institution tries to copy its neighbour does not seem to us likely to be either dynamic or flexible in responding to need.

32.6 As far as the UGC's own institutions are concerned, we would hope that for 1996-2006 the particular strengths displayed in paragraph 32.1 would be retained. There will be changes in subject balance, as Hong Kong's needs develop and as areas of excellence grow at the expense of weaker disciplines, and there will be variations in research activity as individuals and groups attract, or fail to attract, support. We have already suggested that full-time undergraduate numbers overall are likely to be static. We also believe that because of the stock of relatively modern buildings and plant on each campus, the numbers at individual institutions should vary but little. As far as postgraduate numbers are concerned (excluding self-funded activities), we again expect little variation in overall figures, but both the UGC and the RGC will be studying developing situations carefully to determine whether shifts of numbers between institutions are desirable.

32.7 At sub-degree level we have suggested (paragraph 30.18) that in the longer term, possibly in the period 2001-2006, there might be expansion. Because of site limitations, we are inclined to think that this should be largely a matter for the VTC, but CityU and PolyU have a great deal of expertise in this area and some growth in their contribution may also be desirable. There are also aspirations by private and charitable institutions to play a larger role in higher education (see, for example, the Caritas report of May 1995 on its Francis Hsu College : there are similar proposals from other bodies). If government is inclined to accede to any of these requests, a concentration on sub-degree work would be the most useful role, particular in the non-industrial areas.

32.8 In the general area of research in the next decade we hope that the UGC institutions will all strengthen their ties with each other and with Hong Kong industry and commerce, although we would encourage and expect CityU and PolyU to be particularly successful at this. Outside the UGC, the OLI has research ambitions and the APA is remitted to undertake research. In both cases we believe that joint work using both their in-house resources and those of a UGC HEI is likely to be particularly fruitful.

32.9 In our discussion of the roles of the individual institutions we have deliberately omitted what may be the most significant agents for change likely to affect their balance of activity in the next decade - the growth of through-life education and the increasingly permeable border with China. The overall consequences are discussed in Section E and Chapter 33, but the impact on particular institutions may be largely a matter of their own choice.

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