Institute announces strategy to combat funding cuts and change its title within three years The Hong Kong Institute of Education has launched a bold plan to become a leading Asia Pacific university within six years - despite severe funding cuts. The institute is aiming to raise $10 million a year in donations and is developing a new portfolio of income-generating programmes, including educating teachers of associate degrees, to support its strategic plan launched this week. The cash will help make up for a 28 per cent cut in its government funding over the three years starting from September last year. It could also face a further 5 per cent funding cut - along with the seven existing universities - in 2007-8, if there is a down-turn in the economy. President Professor Paul Morris said: 'The strategic plan will serve as the institute's guiding road map towards fulfilling its mission of producing quality educators and raising the status and quality of education in Hong Kong.' The four-pronged plan aims to boost professional training of teachers to meet new demands under the senior secondary school reforms and use the institute's research strengths to boost the quality of all education sectors in Hong Kong. It is also designed to serve similar objectives in other countries and regions. A 'core curriculum' is being developed for all student teachers to prepare them to teach classes of students with different abilities, operate school-based assessment and offer counselling. The institute has set up three new research and development centres to work with schools on enhancing classroom practice in areas including small-class teaching and school-based assessment. It aims to use research funding to contribute to public policy on education, while supporting educators working outside schools with new training programmes. Institute chiefs also wants to provide 60 per cent of all trainee teachers with some form of study abroad - an option currently available to 25 per cent - and have set a target for gaining a university title - an ambition floated last year. The move is partly aimed at avoiding misconceptions on the mainland, where institutes can only operate sub-degree programmes. Dr Lai Kwok-chan, HKIEd's head of strategic and academic planning, said: 'We hope we can achieve the retitling of the institute to a university within three years. We realise that it will help us to do things better. 'The great majority of our funding comes from the UGC and we expect that to continue. That will be used to support research and teaching. On top of that, in order to achieve what we have planned, we would require some additional funding in terms of donations and we will be developing new activities in order to generate income. 'We need about $10 million in donations every year to allow 60 per cent of our full-time students to have opportunities to study abroad. Our plan does not include proposals for merger or federation with Chinese University.' Dr Lai said the institute was holding talks with the Vocational Training Council about jointly setting up full-fee courses and programmes aimed at teachers of associate degrees and vocational programmes. The institute would also increase the number of fee-paying master of education places from 160 to 250 next year and was preparing to offer a range of full-fee courses of varying lengths for early childhood educators. Dr Lai said a 15 per cent cut in the institute's staff through voluntary and compulsory redundancy had been completed and it was in a good position to launch the plan, with 75 per cent of academic staff now holding a PhD. Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, Secretary for Education and Manpower, said last year HKIEd could not be a university because it only had one subject area.