City University's staff union yesterday called on the management to clarify whether public funds had been used to hire 200 staff for self-financed programmes.
Dr John Tse Wing-ling, the staff union's chairman, said the management had told members of the university's board in a recent meeting that it had hired at least an extra 200 staff between 2006 and 2008, and therefore it should be cautious when reviewing staff pay.
A City University spokeswoman said last night that the 200 staff were hired for the "overall development" of the university.
The university offers such programmes at its privately run Community College as well as in some university departments.
The city's eight public tertiary institutions received HK$5 billion in tuition fees for privately run programmes last year. "If this is public funds, how come it can be spent this way?" Tse said.
The staff union has been in a row with management over a change in the pay structure that saw guaranteed annual salary increases replaced by a performance-based system.
Mak Hoi-wah, an elected school council member, confirmed he had heard about the recruitment exercise, which started in 2006. But he said no one on the board knew for certain if public funds had been used.
Legislators have voiced concerns over the governance of privately run arms of universities, created in recent years after a government policy to increase higher education opportunities.
The University Grants Committee last year asked universities to provide a detailed account of how public funds and private operations of universities are separated.
Meanwhile, 300 people protested at CityU's Kowloon Tong campus against a change in pay structure. The university has agreed average pay rises of 7 per cent.