Sub-degree proposals 'miss the point'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 12 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 12 April, 2008, 12:00am

The billion-dollar proposals to prop up the ailing sub-degree sector fail to address the root of the problems, the head of the largest teaching union said yesterday.

Hitting out at the 22-point raft of recommendations unveiled by the education secretary this week, education legislator and president of the Professional Teachers' Union Cheung Man-kwong said he was concerned it would do nothing to improve the standing of associate degrees, as they were plagued by insufficient funding.

The proposals, announced by Michael Suen Ming-yeung on Thursday, include providing increased financial assistance to students, supporting course providers with long-term loans to upgrade facilities and introducing measures to increase scrutiny of course quality.

But while Mr Cheung welcomed measures to ease students' financial burdens, he said the plan would not eliminate the 'bias against associate degrees' in society as it would not directly boost the quality of teaching.

The crux of the problem was that programmes were self-financing, he said. Market forces kept fees at around HK$50,000, which he estimated left institutions with roughly HK$45,000 per student to pay for teaching and course materials.

'Mr Suen talks about maintaining quality, but if we do not do anything to solve the funding problem you will only be able to maintain quality at the bare minimum level,' he said.

Mr Cheung applauded the move to give associate-degree students access to loans and grants currently limited to university students.

'But the only way students are going to be able to pay back loans after they graduate is if their personal financial situation is stable. That means their qualification needs to be recognised enough for them to gain employment,' he said.

The proposals are due to be discussed by the Legislative Council's education panel on Monday.