Civil servants on the fast track are to be trained in the US instead of Britain in September for the first time. About 15 administrative officers are to go to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor for a pilot development programme which replaces the course held at Oxford University. Raymond Young Lap-moon, the principal assistant secretary for the Civil Service, denied the change had anything to do with the handover. 'The British education system is quite good and we do not think the Chinese side would oppose sending administrative officers to study there. 'The main purpose of the Oxford course, which took a year to complete, was to help administrative officers broaden their outlook and develop wider interests,' Mr Young said. 'We think as young people travel more widely nowadays, a shorter and more focused course will be enough, particularly when the manpower of the grade is very tight.' He said the administration had discussed the scheme with a number of universities in the United States and Europe. Ip Kwok-him, legislator for the pro-China Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, believed the change was to minimise the role of Britain in the training of civil servants. 'The officers were sent to Britain to learn the style and the way of thinking of the sovereign country. There must be some correlation,' Mr Ip said. 'It is a good thing to replace the Oxford courses with a programme of more direct relevance to the work of officers.' A Civil Service Branch spokesman said the course was organised for officers who had completed their three-year probationary periods. The course will consist of three core subjects - political science, public policy management and China studies. In addition, course participants can choose one subject from the regular courses on offer by the university. The spokesman said the principal differences between the Oxford course and the Michigan programme were in terms of duration and training focus. While the Oxford course lasted for one academic year, the new programme lasted 14 weeks. The main purpose of the Oxford course is to broaden the outlook of the officers and the new programme will cater for changes in training needs. Its emphasis will be on the development of skills and practical knowledge of direct relevance to the work of an administrative officer. Officials will review the new course when it ends in December and decide whether to continue it next year.