Calls made for monitoring of tertiary education enrolments

Worries over private colleges profiting like commercial firms while providing inadequate service emerge after some enrol extra students

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2012, 3:25am

Nearly two in five private tertiary institutions have enrolled more students than initially planned, in one case some 60 per cent more, official figures show.

They have prompted calls for the government to impose controls as soon as possible to prevent these institutions making profits as if they were commercial businesses.

Overenrolment could affect students' learning and stretch campus facilities, lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok of the Civic Party said. He urged the government to monitor the institutions' operations more closely by making it compulsory for them to reveal their income from application fees and enrolment deposits every year.

"The government should respect institutions' independence, but it should also proactively protect the rights of students," said Chan, who raised the question with the bureau in the Legislative Council yesterday.

The Education Bureau said 11 out of 29 private institutions, some of which are divisions of local universities, exceeded student enrolments beyond their original academic plans, which each college usually devises as part of its budget process.

Those private institutions include the City University Community College; Lingnan University Community College and its Institute of Further Education; HKU Space Community College, which is affiliated to the University of Hong Kong; and Hong Kong Community College, affiliated to Polytechnic University.

In the case of the HKU Space Community College, it accepted 5,353 students for the 2012/13 academic year despite expecting 3,901 at the planning stage, a 37 per cent difference.

The HKU Space Po Leung Kuk Community College took in 2,599 students, 63 per cent more than the estimated 1,591.

But Chinese University's School of Continuing and Professional Studies enrolled only 1.4 per cent more students than planned.

The figures do not include the city's final batch of A-Level exam graduates this year.

The government has ambitions to increase the provision of higher education for youngsters in the private sector because the numbers capable of entering public universities are low.

Keen competition for places means only about 18 per cent of youngsters are able to gain admission to undergraduate degree programmes at publicly funded universities.

Fung Wai-wah, president of the Professional Teachers' Union, expressed concern about the quality of associate degrees - the most popular product in private education - offered in the city.

He said the only way the government could solve the problem was to set up a body empowered to regulate the institutions running such courses.

"The government cannot escape the responsibility," Fung said. "Overenrolment is something that the Education Bureau could have prevented."