Budget deficit threatens to balloon to $100m because of relatively small student body Lingnan University has won support from a special University Grants Committee panel for additional funding to help overcome its financial crisis. The five-member panel, led by former rector of Imperial College, Lord Oxburgh, recommended a 'premium' for the university to help meet a growing budget deficit caused by its small student numbers. Lingnan President Edward Chen Kwan-yiu said the deficit, currently standing at $30 million, could reach $100 million by 2007 should nothing be done about it. Declining to reveal the exact amount proposed by the panel, he said the grant would be enough to help Lingnan overcome its financial crisis, if approved by the UGC. His university has already adopted cost-saving measures including reducing the extent of a performance-based pay rise. The panel, with four members from abroad, met with staff and students during a four-day visit at the Tuen Mun-based institution last September. In its report submitted earlier to the UGC, it noted the significant progress Lingnan had made in fulfilling its liberal arts mission, adopted since Professor Chen became president in 1995. The report commended Lingnan's balanced academic curriculum, integrated student development programme encompassing a broad range of learning and social skills, and its residential environment. It supported extra funding to help Lingnan diversify its programmes and raise the quality of its teaching and supporting research to a highly competitive level. By pursuing its liberal arts objectives, 'not only will Lingnan contribute to the role in Hong Kong envisaged by the UGC, it will do so in a way that adds a distinctive dimension', the report said. It commended the 'unique and supportive educational environment there, fostered by small group teaching within a small and mostly residential community'. Professor Chen said: 'The panel members have not seen as close staff-student interaction elsewhere. Our curriculum may not match what is being offered in liberal arts institutions in the States, but we have still achieved a lot and are filling a gap in higher education.' He maintained Lingnan should be given 'compensation funding' since it had been disadvantaged under the outdated funding formula that gave much heavier weighting to science subjects. Under a UGC quota, the institution has only 17 graduate students, which severely limits the funding available to it. The government subsidy for a research student is 1.5 times to twice that of an undergraduate. The panel recommended a substantial increase in the number of postgraduate places, Professor Chen said. He said that while his university was not high in the pecking order of local universities, he was confident more students would be knocking on its door when its reputation improved. He said: 'We are open to all kinds of students. The admissions grades of our new students this year were indeed much higher than last year's.' A study released in the latest issue of the Hong Kong Economic Journal Monthly ranked Lingnan fourth out of the eight publicly-funded institutions, after the University of Science and Technology, the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong. It took into account a number of factors, such as resident student population and research output but did not include results of the latest round of the teaching quality assurance review conducted by the UGC.