Colleges asked to clarify where public funds go
The University Grants Committee asked the city's publicly funded tertiary institutions to clarify whether public money was being used for non-subsidised subdegree programmes, says outgoing chairwoman Laura Cha Shih May-lung.
Cha, who stepped down as committee chief yesterday, said the governance of subdegree programmes would be a key question for new chairman Edward Cheng Wai-sun.
'We are not trying to get our hands on the self-funded programmes, but it's about public money,' she said.
Cha said questionnaires had been sent to the tertiary institutions so they could explain the financing of their subdegree programmes to ensure that public resources were not used.
Former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa introduced the associate degree qualification in early 2001 with the aim of giving more young people the chance to gain a tertiary education.
Since most programmes are funded by universities or private institutions, the cost to the student can be as much as a degree course, prompting concerns among some about the value of the study.
Every year, nearly 30,000 subdegree students graduate from associate degree or higher diploma programmes, but only a few thousand make it to university due to the keen competition from secondary school graduates.
There have been concerns about how some publicly funded universities offering such courses allocate costs internally and how profits are shared.
Cha said the UGC would seek government approval for a two-year review of the financing of subdegree programmes.
An official for the committee, who preferred not to be named, said the questionnaires were part of the preparatory work for the review.
Other suggestions in a committee report included setting up a standardised credit transfer system for subdegree holders who want to enter university, or degree students who want to change institutions.
A standardised approach must be imposed on subdegree course providers to ensure reliability and conformity, Cha, who is also an Executive Council member, said.
'Some parents think this is a university education as their children go to a university campus,' she said. 'And because they have paid for this education, they will have certain expectations.
'If the students end up not being able to enter university, the parents will make a lot of noise. If the positioning is clearer, people will adjust their expectations.'