Lawmakers demand inquiry into storm over nursing accreditation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 April, 2008, 12:00am

An independent panel should investigate the nurses' accreditation controversy at the Institute of Technology, lawmakers said yesterday.

The Nursing Council last month refused to accredit the institute's associate degree in nursing, meaning its graduates cannot become registered nurses.

At a special meeting of the Legislative Council's education panel yesterday, lawmakers also urged the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications to work closely with accreditation bodies for different professions, to assess whether a course could be offered.

The lawmakers' motion addressed courses that are not accredited when students begin studying. In such cases, the motion urged that professional bodies make interim assessments a year after receiving the institutions' requests for accreditation.

The motion said institutions should be banned from enrolling students if the schools failed their interim assessment. Affected students should have their tuition fees refunded.

The Institute of Technology started a three-year nursing programme in September 2005, a month after it was accredited by the then-Council for Academic Accreditation - renamed last October the Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications. But the course was later rejected twice for accreditation by the Nursing Council - in February 2006 and in March this year.

Speaking at yesterday's meeting, Deputy Secretary for Food and Health Patrick Nip Tak-kuen said it was unnecessary for the government to set up a special panel to look into the issue.

Deputy Secretary for Education Michael Wong Wai-lun said it would discuss with accreditation bodies for different professions how to increase the transparency of their accreditation process.

Nursing Council chairwoman Adela Lai Shuet-fun told lawmakers yesterday that the council had first rejected the institute's application for accrediting its three-year associate nursing degree programme in February 2006.

A lawmaker asked her why that decision wasn't made public at the time.

Ms Lai said it was the council's usual practice to inform only the institution of the application result, but not to make it public.

She said the council would consider updating information about its progress in accrediting nursing courses on its website.