STANDARDS need to be raised in Hongkong colleges to ensure they become international centres of excellence, the new head of the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee said yesterday. The quality of graduates is comparable to that of other countries, but improvements needed to be made to guarantee the territory's standing, said Antony Leung Kam-chung. ''I would like the standard of higher education to be internationally recognised and we have to have adequate funding from the Government to achieve [this]. We hope we will get that funding,'' he said. The Government must also be encouraged to join the debate on the future direction of tertiary education up to the end of the century. The policy of acting as a buffer between the Government and the tertiary institutions, ensuring value for public money while safeguarding autonomy and academic freedom, would remain the UPGC's aim, Mr Leung said. ''This role has perhaps never been more important than it is now in this period of social and political change for Hongkong.'' Mr Leung said he was awaiting the Government's response to a UPGC report outlining options for higher education after 1995. He believed a period of consolidation would be necessary after the hectic expansion programme since 1989. But some changes could still be made, including encouraging non-local students to take up places and reviewing the status of institutions such as the Hongkong Polytechnic, City Polytechnic and Baptist College, which may award their own degrees if they are accredited by an external examiner. The UPGC submitted recommendations on the institutions to the Education and Manpower Branch, Mr Leung said. He declined to say when or if they would be given self-accreditation powers. ''Nevertheless, I should like to make it clear that the UPGC accepts, as a matter of principle, that it is academically desirable for the non-university institutions to reach a point where self-accreditation can occur,'' he said. He praised the work of his predecessor, Andrew Li, and said the UPGC would not be changing direction under his leadership. The vice-chancellor of the Chinese University, Professor Charles Kao Kuen, welcomed Mr Leung's approach. He said: ''I am glad that the UPGC is continuing its effective role in supporting the tertiary sector.''