The Hong Kong Institute of Education has moved a step closer to university status after the University Grants Committee approved its first non-teaching degree programmes.
The institute won an extra HK$22 million from the Executive Council in June to fund 120 undergraduate degree places across three new subjects and 30 research postgraduate places.
The government released the extra cash to support the institute's drive to become a multidisciplinary university after the grants committee turned down its application for university status in February last year, saying it was not ready.
The committee report said there were two possible routes for the institute to become a university: by merging with another university - the quickest way - or going through the 'serious and arduous' exercise of becoming a multidisciplinary institution.
The institute's president, Anthony Cheung Bing-leung, opted for the multi-disciplinary route and drew up a three-year plan for the transformation.
He disputed the committee's estimate that HK$100 million was needed to upgrade the institute, saying it could be done for HK$16 million.
Under the plan, the institute developed new degrees in language and literature, creative arts and culture and environmental studies and 30 new postgraduate places. It is also setting up a graduate school and expanding self-financed master's degrees.
Committee chairwoman Laura Cha Shih May-lung said it yesterday gave the go-ahead for the institute to set up the programmes and places after considering the recommendations of two working groups and two higher education experts.
The experts thought the institute had enough research capability and facilities to support 30 postgraduate places and committee members who visited the campus were 'reasonably impressed' with the progress it had made in the past two years.
Pang Yiu-kai, the chairman of the institute's ruling council, said the committee's approval was 'most encouraging'.
It marked 'another significant milestone' on the institute's journey towards becoming a fully fledged university of education, Pang said.