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Watchdog slams Hong Kong Design Institute for taking on too many students

Audit Commission’s report finds that institute had exceeded enrolment limits for first year students for the past three years by more than 20 per cent

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 9:11pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 22 November, 2017, 10:52pm

The Hong Kong Design Institute, that runs various design diploma programmes, came under fire from a government watchdog on Wednesday for three years of over-enrolment that has led to a lower employment rate for its graduates.

Despite the excess number of students, the institute still ran a deficit of HK$199 million in the last financial year, incurring an expenditure of HK$456 million with an income of only HK$257 million.

The institute, a member of the publicly-funded Vocational Training Council (VTC), merged with three design departments and relocated to a HK$1 billion new campus in Tiu Keng Leng in 2010.

In 2016/17, the institute offered 21 full-time two-year diploma programmes, comprising 19 subsidised and two self-financed programmes with tuition fees of HK$31,570 and HK$53,400 per year respectively. A total of 5,476 students were enrolled.

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The Audit Commission’s report noted that the institute had over-enrolled first year students for the past three years by more than 20 per cent. In 2016/17, 13 of the 21 programmes exceeded the enrolment limit.

In 2013, a programme board had expressed concerns about the enrolment situation and suggested taking fewer students to ensure the standard of teaching quality and prevent the oversupply of graduates in the market and the industry.

“The audit noted that for some programmes, the enrolment situation had persisted for many years,” the commission’s report said, citing four programmes of communication design and digital media had 171 per cent enrolment in the 2015 academic year and 160 per cent the following year.

It added the institute had not taken any steps to mitigate the adverse impact on the quality of teaching. Last December, a programme board also reported to a quality assurance committee that the over-enrolment situation had created stress in the learning environment.

As a result, the overall employment rate for graduates was 86.4 per cent last year, lower than the target rate of 90 per cent set by the VTC.

The report also pointed out that 59 additional teaching staff were employed over the past three years to cope with the excess number of students, but 55 of them were under short-term contracts of one year or less.

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It was stipulated in the VTC instruction that the posts of short contract staff should not exceed 15 per cent of the number of teaching posts, but the number of short contract staff over the past three years has reached 25 per cent.

“The audit considers … the number of students enrolled should not exceed the plan by a significant margin. Significant deviation from the plan should be fully justified,” it said.

In reply, the VTC said additional teaching, facilities and resources had been provided to cater for the additional places.