Complaints against extramural courses of UGC-funded institutions
Date of sitting: 20 November 2002
Asked by: Hon CHEUNG Man-kwong
Replied by: SEM
It has been reported that complaints have been lodged about courses operated by the extra-mural departments or affiliated schools of some University Grants Committee-funded institutions (UGC-funded institutions) and about courses jointly operated by these institutions and non-local institutions not meeting the advertised descriptions and charging excessive school fees. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council :
- whether there are any restrictions on the claimed academic standard (such as diploma, degree or postgraduate level) of these courses; if so, of the details; whether the academic standards of courses at associate degree level or above are self-accredited by the institutions operating the courses; if so, of the reasons;
- of the mechanism for monitoring the quality, academic standard and vetting applications for admission to such courses; how the monitoring agency assures the quality of these courses; whether the courses have to be registered; if so, of the ordinance under which they are registered; if not, the reasons for that;
- whether it knows if any channels have been set up by UGC-funded institutions to handle complaints about courses not meeting the advertised descriptions; if there are such channels, of the number of such complaints received by each institution in each of the past five years and the percentage of such complaints among all complaints received by the relevant institution for the year; if not, of the agency for handling the complaints; and
- whether it knows if UGC-funded institutions and their extra-mural departments or affiliated schools share the teaching and financial resources between themselves; if they do, of the items of the resources concerned and the amount of money received for such items by each party in each of the past three years, as well as the percentage of such amount in the fund allocated to the institution, or in its surplus, for that year?
- The respective governing ordinances of the University Grants Committee (UGC)-funded institutions empower them to confer degrees and other academic awards. There is no restriction on the claimed academic standard of courses offered by them and their continuing and professional education (CPE) arms. For the universities, their award-bearing programmes (usually at certificate level or above) are accredited and conferred by the institutions, and are subject to their internal quality assurance mechanisms. For the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) which is not yet a self-accrediting institution, any award-bearing programmes offered by its CPE arm must be validated by the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation (HKCAA).
Non-award-bearing programmes are also subject to the institutions' own internal quality assurance control before they are offered to students.
In a 'Consultation Paper on the Proposal to Set up a Qualifications Framework and the Associated Quality Assurance Framework in Hong Kong' published this month by the Education and Manpower Bureau, it is proposed, among other recommendations, that the existing mandate of the HKCAA be expanded to take responsibility for ensuring the quality of all qualifications below degree level in the proposed qualifications framework, including those of the CPE arms of UGC-funded institutions. The Government will carefully consider all views of the public before taking a decision on the recommendation.
For courses jointly operated by CPE arms and non-local institutions leading to non-local awards, they are regulated under the Non-Local Higher and Professional Education (Regulation) Ordinance (Cap. 493).
- The universities all have their own internal mechanism to validate and monitor the admission standards, content and quality of courses. Usually, the mechanism involves bodies like the Senate, academic boards, internal validation panels, management committees, etc. Membership of these bodies includes academics, professional experts from the relevant industries or external professional bodies, teaching staff and student representatives.
The UGC also attaches great importance to programme quality. Programmes offered by the CPE arms are now included in the Teaching and Learning Quality Process Reviews conducted by a panel under the UGC.
For the HKIEd, award-bearing courses offered by its CPE arm must be revalidated by the HKCAA every three years. Internally, the Institute has also set up quality assurance committees to monitor and supervise the daily operation and quality of its CPE programmes.
Since all the eight UGC-funded institutions are statutory bodies regulated under their governing ordinances, they are not required to separately register their courses. CPE arms offering non-local courses in collaboration with their non-local partners are required to apply for exemption under Cap. 493 and a register of these courses is kept and available for public inspection.
- The CPE arms of the all UGC-funded institutions have established channels for handling complaints about their courses. According to the information provided by the institutions, there are 1, 3, 6, 5 and 0 complaints in the past five academic years from 1997/98 to 2001/02 respectively about courses not meeting the advertised descriptions. They represented between 0% to 9% of the total number of complaints received.
- All CPE arms are currently operated on a self-financing mode. Their financial transactions are recorded separately from those of the institutions proper. In cases where CPE arms use the resources of the institutions proper, these are paid for by the CPE arms.
Nevertheless, the senior management of institutions do share responsibility for the strategic development of the CPE arms. There is no separate accounting or charging in such cases.