An independent, standardised English competency test at university-graduate level could be introduced to help employers identify people who meet their language requirements. Deputy Secretary for Education and Manpower Raymond Young Lap-moon said yesterday the feasibility of such an exam was being considered. 'At present not all tertiary institutes have special language courses and tests for their students. And there's concern that our students' language standard is declining. 'We hope the competency test can encourage students to work harder. It will also serve as a good indicator for employers to choose their staff,' he said. The idea was discussed by the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research. The committee manages the government Language Fund, which now stands at more than $100 million. Committee chairman Dr Daniel Tse Chi-wai said members had decided to make the independent exam its priority within the next two years. Dr Tse, also President of the Baptist University, emphasised the test should be on a voluntary basis and both new and long-term graduates should be eligible to sit. 'In the past two years, the committee devoted effort and resources to considering language enhancement proposals by different sectors of the community,' he said. 'It will now put more emphasis on language policy formulation. For Hong Kong to maintain its competitiveness as an international city, we need to take urgent action to ensure our university graduates have a high level of competence in English.' Other priority issues in the committee's action plan included studying language attainment targets for primary and junior secondary students and vocational language needs, Dr Tse said. He said committee members would consider how to make use of the Language Fund to improve vocational language competency. 'We will first contact organisations from various sectors including business chambers and unions to see their respective language needs. We hope workers in different fields can improve their language skills and work better for Hong Kong's future.'