Publicly funded university AD places out early

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 May, 2006, 12:00am

Extra publicly funded university places for associate degree (AD) graduates have been released one year early as the government faces a barrage of criticism from legislators and educators over its sub-degree policy.

Michael Stone, secretary general of the University Grants Committee (UGC), told legislators in March that it planned to double the number of publicly funded second-year degree places for AD students but increases would not start until the 2007-8 academic year at the earliest.

Education Secretary Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung confirmed to the Legislative Council on May 10 that more than 2,000 additional second-year places would be provided in coming years bringing the total to 3,700.

On the same day, the UGC told universities that 127 extra second-year undergraduate places would be created in September with a further 127 to be provided in 2007-8.

The UGC figures revealed that a total of 2,020 places would be created by 2010-11 with the remaining 1,766 allocated over the three-year funding cycle starting in 2008-9.

City University and Polytechnic University won the lion's share, gaining 50 each in 2006-7 and 100 each in 2007-8.

A spokeswoman for the UGC said: 'The UGC firmly believes that the creation of over 2,000 year two and year three undergraduate places will be very positive indeed. We note the important roles played by CityU and PolyU in providing articulation opportunities to sub-degree graduates.

'In deciding on the allocation of additional senior-year places, experience in providing articulation to sub-degree graduates is an important factor that we will take into account.'

She declined to comment on why the extra places were being handed out one year earlier than originally planned.

Edward Chen Kwan-yiu, president of Lingnan University was this week reported comparing the government's AD policy to Chairman Mao's disastrous Great Leap Forward and its emphasis on 'quantity not quality' in the production of steel. Professor Chen, whose own university gains 15 new places in September, said its self-financing AD students were not able to go on to undergraduate programmes and had been sold false expectations.

Legco members backed a members' motion put by Cheung Man-kwong, legislator for the education sector. This called for more cash to fund a package of measures to strengthen the quality of AD provision to address a 'series of problems' over the past five years.

Measures called for include preventing 'vicious competition' due to an over-supply of AD places, better facilities and support for AD students and extending loan repayment periods to relieve financial pressures on colleges.