City University students threaten 'radical action' over college sale plan

City University students threaten to take 'radical action' after institute reveals it is in talks to sell off its popular Community College

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 2:39am
UPDATED : Friday, 27 June, 2014, 2:56am

Students at City University have threatened to take "radical action" after accusing the university of having kept them in the dark on its plan to sell its popular Community College.

About 7,000 students and 200 staff members at the college would be affected by the sell-off.

Students set up a Facebook page opposing the sale after the plan was revealed yesterday. The page drew more than 1,400 "likes" in about seven hours.

"We are all very shocked by the news and very upset about the university's black-box operation," said Timothy Lee Ho-yin, former student union president and one of the page's founders.

"It's really unfair to us. We want to know why the university wants to sell the college and what the arrangements would be for students and staff there."

Lee said the university had spoken vaguely of the plan at a university council meeting in November, when he was a student council representative. The next he heard was when the university yesterday revealed it was in talks with two potential buyers.

Lee said students and some teachers would form a concern group. If the university refused to consult all stakeholders, they might then take "more radical action, such as laying siege to the president's office", Lee added.

The Community College currently offers a number of associate degree programmes.

Fung Wai-wah, president of the Professional Teachers' Union and a senior lecturer at the university, said the college's programmes were accredited with the university's credentials. If it was sold, students might graduate with a certificate issued by another institute.

Fung said there was no guarantee that current staff members would keep their jobs. "It is unacceptable that the university is treating education like a commodity," Fung said. "I don't understand why it has to do this."

University staff union chairman John Tse Wing-ling said the college was one of the most popular associate-degree providers, attracting thousands of students each year. Such a sale would be a first in the history of Hong Kong's tertiary education, he added.

A spokeswoman for the university said its council had unanimously approved the plan to enable the college to expand, further develop self-financing programmes and possibly offer bachelor's degree programmes.

She said current students would see no change to courses or tuition fees, and the council would also require any buyer to guarantee not to change staff employment contracts.

She said the university would consult relevant stakeholders "at an appropriate time".

An Education Bureau spokesman said City University should take into account the interests of students and staff as well as course accreditation when making any arrangement concerning the Community College.