Cross-border study scheme criticised

Cross-border study scheme described by lawmakers as an education 'trap'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 5:56pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 December, 2012, 9:40pm

The government was criticised for a pilot scheme that encourages Hongkongers to attend mainland universities to earn degrees which may not help their career prospects.

It was as if the government had “lured someone into a trap” by introducing a scheme that may not lead to a proper academic qualification, legislator Leung Yiu-chung said during a meeting of the Legislative Council’s education panel on Tuesday.

Education Bureau officials acknowledged on Tuesday that a mainland degree is treated differently from a local one by many prospective employers.

The programme was launched last year by Premier Li Keqiang, on a visit to Hong Kong, as one of Beijing’s many “support measures” for the city.

About 900 Hong Kong students were enrolled at 63 mainland universities this year under the programme. It allows the city’s secondary school graduates to enter tertiary institutions without taking the normal entrance exams.

Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung Yun-hung said mainland degrees fall into the “non-local” category by prospective employers in the public service – and possibly in the private sector.

Chan noted that in government recruitments, non-local degrees must be separately accredited by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications.

For example, the qualifications for winning a highly-paid administrative officer position calls for a first- or second-class honours bachelor’s degree from a Hong Kong university, or an “equivalent” qualification, according to the Civil Service Bureau. A junior administrative officer earns HK$41,500 per month. Mainland diplomas “[are assessed] on a case-by-case basis,” Yeung said. Private sector recruiters may give a mainland degree any recognition they like, he said.

Leung urged the government to take the initiative and evaluate the qualities of the university’s degrees, or else it would be “shrugging off its responsibilities” in introducing such a scheme.

Lawmaker Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok, of the Civic Party, said the Hong Kong government had adopted Beijing’s offered policy as a “shoe-shining” move. But the government must also look out for students’ interests, he warned.

Legislator Leung Kwok-hung said this partnership scheme creates a problem for the Hong Kong government. It would be politically difficult to snub the qualifications of participating schools given that Beijing had initiated the programme.

Yeung noted that students can also apply to mainland schools without joining the scheme –but would then have to take an entrance exam.

Since the handover, about 60,000 students have moved across the border for tertiary education.