UGC representative explains Sutherland Report

Regina Lau

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The Secretary-General of the University Grants Committee (UGC), Mr Peter Cheung, delivered a talk on higher education review at a CityU Council Luncheon on 15 April. "Given today's financial situation and the need to keep Hong Kong internationally competitive, the status quo has to be changed," he said, in his explanation of the rationale behind the Sutherland Report on Higher Education in Hong Kong , commissioned by the UGC.

The Sutherland Report envisions the situation where, eventually, a small number of institutions will be strategically identified as the focus of public and private sector support. Mr Cheung urged the governing body of each university to review strategic positioning and management structures in face of the changing landscape of higher education. His talk was followed by a session during which CityU senior staff members and student representatives raised questions about the philosophy and justifications of the some of the report's recommendations on funding, sub-degree programmes and institutional governance.

In response to the Report, the Staff Association organized three forums to discuss the Report's recommendations on the future of associate degrees, research and de-linking from civil service pay and conditions of service on 23, 25 and 26 April, respectively.

OThey owe it to us to justify why theyOre proposing to privatize sub-degree programmes," said a college staff member. "Young people under the age of 23 should have equal opportunities for education, whether in sub-degree or bachelor degree programmes."

On the issue of research, Professor Po Chung said, "For Hong Kong to survive, we need to help the Pearl River Delta region, we need to help them upgrade their technologies through applied R&DNand this in turn will help Hong Kong." Rather than identifying institutions, Professor Chung added, the UGC should choose areas of excellence for Hong Kong, which would prevent unhealthy competition between universities.

Feelings of confusion over the salary de-linking issue were expressed at the final forum. A colleague's comment, "It's premature to talk about de-linking from the civil service pay scale, when the civil service pay reforms have yet to be settled," summed up the feelings of the participants.

Staff Association Chairman Mr Nicholas Tam said that the views expressed at the forums would be summarized and made known to the UGC.



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