Higher education staff demand place on EMB's decision-making reforms body A delegation of union leaders will meet education chiefs on Monday to put seven demands for greater representation and better terms and conditions for academics. The delegation from the Federation of Higher Education Staff Associations is meeting Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, Secretary for Education and Manpower. The meeting follows the Education and Manpower Bureau's consultation over proposals for the future of higher education. Its review document, drawn up by an EMB steering committee and published in March, says the sector should be expanded further to meet demand from students, with more government-funded places on sub-degree programmes and second-year places for associate degree graduates. The 15-strong delegation will press Professor Li for academic staff associations and unions to be represented on all committees advising the government on higher education policy as well as on the University Grants Committee and the Research Grants Committee. They demand regular meetings between the EMB, the UGC, senior university management and union representatives to enhance communication and mutual understanding on the development and funding of higher education. The federation is also calling for 'an independent, inter-institutional grievance and appeals procedure' to arbitrate disputes between academics and their universities. Federation chairman Professor Shum Kar-ping said: 'We are going to ask Professor Li to include members of our association in EMB and related higher education committees because they are the elected representatives of university staff. 'The government appoints experts from the education sector to a number of committees to advise on various aspects of education policy but there are no representatives of staff associations or rank and file academics on any of these. Hong Kong is out of line with international practice and with that in China.' Professor Shum said the 2002 report on the future of higher education in Hong Kong prepared by former British vice-chancellor Lord Sutherland had called for an appeals mechanism for decisions affecting individual academics but this had never been followed up. 'The recent events at Baptist University have shown that academic staff are helpless if university managements want to unilaterally change their terms and conditions of service,' he said. 'It shows that the employment status of academics in Hong Kong is not formally established or clear and we need to put it on to a sounder footing.' Demands include an 'open, clear and transparent process' in the allocation of resources and appointment of institutions' staff and teachers, and long-term employment terms for academics to ensure a 'free atmosphere' and 'stable working environment'. Aaron Li Wing-yuen, president of Chinese University Staff Association, said the delegation would also back calls for more government-funded places for associate degree students and for AD graduates. The consultation period on the review ended yesterday. An EMB spokeswoman said that subject to responses it would now embark on the second phase of the review, to refine implementation details.