Ensuring a quality education in Hong Kong must remain prime concern

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 June, 2017, 5:15pm
UPDATED : Monday, 26 June, 2017, 10:29pm

I refer to the letter from Tony Leung (“Carrie Lam’s vouchers for self-funded students a good move”, June 22), replying to my letter (“Quality checks for all self-funded colleges in Hong Kong long overdue”, June 7).

I held a meeting with representatives of eight self-funded tertiary institutions to discuss chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s proposal of giving self-funded students vouchers of HK$30,000 per year. We reached a large measure of agreement at the meeting.

The representatives assured me that the funding would not be used to subsidise their operational expenses, but would be used only to subsidise students’ tuition. As such, we agreed that it would be a misnomer to call the funding “vouchers”.

Better to call a spade a spade and to rename the funding to the students as subsidies or grants to cover tuition fees.

The representatives also agreed that they would not seek such grants for non-Hong Kong students, in accordance with the principle that priority should be given to allocating taxpayers’ money to local students seeking higher education.

As the self-funded institutions receive substantial public support in the form of land grant, start-up loan, quality enhancement grant, scholarships for outstanding students and loans for needy students, and more recently, a study subsidy scheme for designated professions/sectors, the representatives agreed that there should be a unified system for quality assurance, as recommended by the University Grants Committee (UGC) in 2010.

We noted that, while increasing publicly funded senior year undergraduate places for sub-degree students, the government is reducing UGC-funded sub-degree places with a view to phasing them out by 2018/19.

As the student population declines in the coming years, as birth rates return to the normal pattern after 2013, self-funded institutions must maintain high standards to ensure their long-term competitiveness and sustainability.

Programmes which have not been accredited by any accreditation bodies, but which appear to confer professional qualifications, must be compelled to meet the necessary, internationally recognised professional standards.

I fully recognise the importance of helping students. But standards must be maintained if self-funded institutions are not to be phased out like the sub-degree programmes because they have outlived their value to society. Ensuring a quality education for students must remain our prime concern.

Regina Ip, legislative councillor