Chapter 7: Structural Change since 1988


In 1988, as a result of recommendations in Education Commission Report No. 3, the Hong Kong Government took the following decisions:

  1. at all tertiary institutions funded by the UGC, 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 UGC 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 UGC. 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 UGC-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 UGC, 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.

7.2 Decision (a) was of particular significance for the Chinese University of Hong Kong which had hitherto taken the majority of its students after one year in the sixth form. It thus offered four year undergraduate courses rather than the three year courses given in all other UGC-funded institutions. The Chinese University has now moved to a credit unit system in which the normal expectation is that undergraduates will obtain a degree after three years of study. Since 1994-95 all entrants have come from Secondary 7.

7.3 The second part of decision (b) implied that the length of the great majority of undergraduate courses should remain, as it was in 1988, at three years, since with given resources increased course length would necessitate fewer entrants. The UGC has so far held the line that courses longer than three years should be very exceptional, although it is under continual pressure to agree extensions. The arguments range over breadth, depth, the inadequacies of matriculants and the largely circular one that professional bodies (which are dominated by academics) will not give accreditation. We return in more detail to the issue of course length in Chapter 25.

7.4 Decision (c) has occasioned no significant problems: it is linked to the first part of (b). Decision (d) is of great importance and has been interpreted widely by the UGC to include Cantonese and Putonghua as well as English. Since 1988 concern about language standards in Hong Kong has grown, and the most recent Education Commission Report (No. 6) deals entirely with this topic. The UGC provided earmarked sums of $25m, $30m, $35m and $40m in the years 1991-92 to 1994-95 to supplement its institutions' existing expenditure on remedial language teaching, and in response the institutions have arranged more than 300 programmes for their students, about half being in English and half in Chinese. Enrolment has exceeded 60,000. The problems of language proficiency are discussed more fully in Chapters 18, 19 and 20.

7.5 The government's recommendation (e)(i) about the introduction of joint admission procedures has been implemented in two stages. An interim Joint University and Polytechnic Admissions Scheme (JUPAS) was introduced in 1990-91, involving a two-stage process with firm or conditional offers made in two synchronized rounds at the end of Secondary 6, taking into account the fact that at that time CUHK admitted students to its four-year undergraduate programme at the end of Secondary 6, while all other institutions admitted students at the end of Secondary 7 on the basis of their Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) results. The system was changed to its present form, a single stage process with offers after A Level, for entrants in 1994-95 and succeeding years.

7.6 There have been a number of criticisms with regard to the operation of the JUPAS system, and the JUPAS Board of Management has reviewed the system each year with a view to improving it and making it more effective. With the experience now gained and improvements already made, JUPAS should continue to improve. Recently the retitled Joint University Programmes Admissions System has been revised, in response to UGC and public requests, to allow students the flexibility of changing their choice of courses after the publication of HKALE results. The UGC will continue to keep a close eye on the scheme since the Committee has a responsibility to assure government that its institutions are meeting approved student number targets at FYFD level.

7.7 In parallel with JUPAS, the two former Polytechnics and the institutions under the Vocational Training Council introduced for their 1993-94 intake to sub-degree courses a Joint Admissions Scheme for Polytechnics, Technical Institutes and Colleges (JASPIC) (now retitled Joint Admissions Scheme for Post-Secondary Institutions' Courses). The scheme has now been operating for three years and the JASPIC Board of Management, like the JUPAS Board, reviews the operation of the scheme each year with a view to improving it. In general, the JASPIC Board of Management considers the operation of the JASPIC system as satisfactory. All available sub-degree places for the academic years 1994-95 and 1995-96 were filled. The Hong Kong Institute of Education at present operates its own separate admission scheme.

7.8 The government's request (e)(ii) 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. The UGC-funded institutions (whose teaching years vary from 28 to 32 weeks) have considerable reservations on this score for a variety of reasons, including the potential reduction in time for research. Although they recognize the relatively low utilization levels of space and plant in higher education (see paragraph 15.3), the main variable costs do not lie there, but in the provision of academic staff. The effective utilization of staff time must be the highest priority, and this is achieved by an appropriate balance of teaching, preparation for teaching, research and administration - much of the latter being concerned with the progression or welfare of students. One can only increase teaching time by disturbing that balance or employing extra staff in ways that may not be wholly efficient. Further, such students as we have consulted do not favour extension of teaching time for the individual student : they believe that the present balance between curricular and extra-curricular activity is educationally satisfactory. We return to these last topics in Chapter 25.

7.9 The adoption of a credit unit system (government request (e)(iii)) has only occurred in the form of local schemes within individual institutions and not as credit accumulation and transfer (CAT) on an inter-institutional basis. The UGC institutions see considerable difficulties in implementing a CAT arrangement at the undergraduate level. There are, however, many examples of CAT taking place in postgraduate work and in continuing education, albeit more in the form of individual concessions than systematic schemes. Within the institutions, CUHK, HKBU and HKUST currently operate credit unit systems. CityU proposes to move entirely from a syllabus based to a credit unit based system by 1997-98.

7.10 Another significant structural change, which arose from Education Commission Report No. 5 (1992), was the creation of the Hong Kong Institute of Education through the amalgamation of the former Colleges of Education and the Institute of Language in Education. Whereas these institutions had formerly been under the direct control of the Education Department, HKIEd was established as an independent institution with its own ordinance and governing council. A single new campus is being constructed for the Institute at Tai Po which will consolidate the activities which had previously been carried out at thirteen separate locations.

Report Menu  Prev Chapter  Next Chapter