University funding system will kill off private institutions

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 12:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 11:07pm

C. K. Yeung in the article (“Hong Kong’s university divide”, August 14) rightly pointed out that the government’s funding system for university education favours public over private institutions and the rich over the poor.

There is another way in which the system penalises local private institutions, and this is in their admission of sub-degree holders into the third year of their four-year honours degree programmes.

They cannot compete with the newer English universities operating top-up programmes in Hong Kong in partnership with local institutions, as these admit the same students into the third year of their three-year honours degree programmes.

The playing field is not level here, as studying in local private institutions means one more year of fees and foregoing one year of income.

Why would students choose local private institutions, especially since they come from poorer families? And don’t forget that students in the foreign top-up programmes can apply for government grants, loans, scholarships, and internships once the programmes have been accredited by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications. Also, upon graduating from such accredited programmes, they are deemed, for government employment purposes, to be the equivalent of local four-year degree programmes, including those of public universities such as the University of Hong Kong.

The value added in the one year of foreign top-up study must be huge because the vast majority of sub-degree students don’t have the minimum university entry requirements.

And now local private institutions will face a bigger problem in the future. City University’s School of Continuing and Professional Education (SCOPE) has partnered with the same type of English universities to offer in Hong Kong three-year honours degree programmes in business administration, language and communication, social science and business information technology. Their admission requirements are also lower, as Chinese is not needed as the universities are English.

I expect these programmes will be popular and other institutions will follow suit.

Public universities are immune to all this. They are held in such high esteem that Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education students and sub-degree graduates will spend the extra year to get a degree. It is the local private institutions that will be penalised and wither away.

Deirdre Stratton, Discovery Bay