The new president of Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) hopes the institution will come under the University Grants Committee's umbrella this year to help its Hong Kong and mainland expansion. The OUHK is a self-financing university which offers degree courses mainly through distance learning. It qualified as a self-accrediting university in 1996. It plans to launch four additional fulltime, face-to-face associate degree-cum-degree courses in accounting, corporate administration and electronic commerce this year following the success of its pilot through-train course in business management last year, according to Professor John Leong Chi-yan, the new OUHK head. The Hong Kong Council of Accreditation, which Professor Leong had chaired, found Hong Kong people spend about $800 million a year on tertiary education courses from overseas universities. 'We also see a potential market in associate degree graduates who want to pursue a degree because the eight UGC-funded institutions can offer only limited places for them,' he said. 'The OUHK will be more flexible in the number of admissions because most of our courses are distance or part time.' The OUHK will also further tap the mainland market by going into partnerships with institutions on associate degrees and degrees. But Professor Leong said its exclusion from the UGC, which funded seven universities and the Hong Kong Institute of Education, was an 'unfortunate disadvantage' to OUHK in student admission both in Hong Kong and the mainland. 'The public seldom recognises OUHK as one of the Hong Kong universities simply because we are outside of UGC,' he said. Professor Leong also urged the UGC to include other private higher education institutions to allow them direct participation in discussions on higher education issues. In November, Secretary for Education Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said the UGC would be responsible for co-ordinating the development of the degree sector, naming OUHK and Shue Yan College. Shue Yan College president Henry Wu Hung-lick criticised the government for delaying the college's plea for a membership in the UGC and self-accreditation as attention had been diverted by budget cuts and education reforms.