Expert urges system change

Benson Chao

AN independent academic accreditation body should be founded to replace Hong Kong universities' autonomy in accrediting local degrees, an education expert warned.

Professor Woo Chia-wei, vice-chancellor of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and member of the Preliminary Working Committee's (PWC) culture and education sub-group, said that Hong Kong still does not have an independent and effective system to accredit degrees of local universities.

The Hong Kong Council of Academic Accreditation (HKCAA), the government-run authority which evaluates local tertiary institutes, only covers non-universities such as the Academy of Performing Arts and the Lingnan College.

All the universities, including the would-be universities - Baptist College, Hong Kong Polytechnic and City Polytechnic - have autonomy in accrediting their own courses.

'Since the HKCAA does not have the authority to monitor local universities, they can set up internal committees to accredit their own degrees and I am not content with such a system.' Professor Woo also doubts the value of Hong Kong degrees since Hong Kong does not have a 'clear definition' of its degrees.

'The civil service sector places too much value on Hong Kong degrees whereas the business sector does the opposite.' Since Hong Kong lacks a general examination to validate the quality of degree-holders from different universities, Professor Woo suggested that an independent academic accreditation body should be established.

Dr Raymond Wu Wai-yung, convenor of the PWC's culture and education sub-group, said that Hong Kong does not accredit overseas universities while depending totally on political considerations which to favouritism towards degrees issued by Commonwealth countries.

'It is unfair to judge students' academic competency in connection with political factors. Unfortunately after all these years of colonial rule, the Hong Kong Government still does not change this [politics-related] education policy.' The majority of the degrees issued by non-Commonwealth countries are not recognised by the Government.

Dr Wu elaborated that the academic standard of graduates from the mainland, the United States, European countries and even Taiwan should be accredited according to their 'academic qualification' instead of the 'political background'.

Dr Wu said that such 'unfair' treatment to non-British degree holders directly affected their job opportunities.

'The most serious problems are faced by the 20,000 Hong Kong students who went to Taiwan to get a degree only to find out that their three years of academic effort were not recognised,' Professor Woo said.

Dr Wu thought that the Special Administrative Region (SAR) government would have a practical plan to fulfil such accreditation.

'I believe that discrimination against certain degree holders is the worst thing that could happen in education.' The SAR government will definitely see to that.'