PTU News Reporter
When the number of publicly-funded university places is still seriously insufficient, the Education Bureau has still announced the launch of Hong Kong Scholarship for Excellence Scheme (HKSES), a scholarship for supporting outstanding local students in pursuing studies in world renowned universities outside Hong Kong, with a funding commitment of nearly $350 million, proposed in the Policy Address of this year. The funding for each student can now reach $450 thousand the maximum, with initially up to 100 students per cohort. In our opinion, the Authority should make good use of any financial surplus to increase the number of publicly-funded local university places, since ten thousands of HKDSE students with recognized qualification cannot be admitted to the post-secondary institutions each year. Now what the government does is never a top priority but only one more opportunity for the outstanding students.
Applications for the new HKSES will be open for three cohorts of undergraduate and post-graduate students, with initially up to 100 students per cohort, starting from the 2015/16 academic year. All scheme awardees will receive a non-means-tested scholarship to cover their tuition fees, subject to a ceiling of $250,000 per student per year. In addition, a means-tested bursary will be granted to students who may need additional support to pursue their study, subject to a ceiling of HK$200,000 per student per annum. Awardees would be required to complete the program and agree to return to Hong Kong after graduation to work for at least two years. Awardees should likely be required to return the scholarship if they cannot complete the program or do not return to HK to work for two years with no convincing justification.
A steering committee will be set up for the selection process. While there is no limitation on the disciplines of study, priority will be given to programs that are conducive to building up Hong Kong long-term competitiveness, in particular those not available in Hong Kong, like veterinary studies, forestry, oceanography or film studies, will be prioritized. And when assessing the choices of universities/programs, reference will be made to the top 100 universities/institutions.
HKSES is not what we need!
Currently at least three scholarships have been introduced to outstanding students for their pursuing studies abroad, with the quota of up to 40 students. Even so, most of our local students, who achieve brilliant academic results and intend to pursue their studies abroad, would generally apply for school scholarships instead. Therefore, we don see any urgency for the launch of HKSES, and this is not our demand either.
Fung Wai-wah, President of HKPTU, pointed out that the scholarship of this kind would just be an additional opportunity for those outstanding students, but the Authority has done nothing to resolve the insufficiency of the number of publicly-funded university places. This can be seen in the situation of the year 2013, that the number of the publicly-funded university places was around 14500, but the number of HKDSE students with recognized qualification for the admission to universities was around 28000, and that is, around half of the qualified students was not admitted to the universities.
HKSES widens the gap between the rich and the poor!
He further stated that the Authority should spend the surplus of resources on the top urgent educational issues, not only facilitate top talents to pursue studies, and rule out those mediocre students. This will not only make the social mobility lower, but also accelerate the social conflicts and widen the gap between the rich and the poor.
Ip Kin-yuen, our representative in the Legco, added that the universities of the whole world are now hunting for the foreign talents with the attractive scholarships. Our Authority, on the contrary, introduces a scholarship scheme to export our talents to other countries. Singapore is a good example, where talents are attracted to their universities according to their local need, so that the foreign talents could finally cater to the demand of society. Our current policy is however contrary to this purpose.
Ip further pointed out that it would be beneficial for the long-term development of Hong Kong that students could go abroad to take the programs which have not been opened by the local institutions. However, the current steering committee for the selection is mainly composed of members from commercial sector, and there are only a few members from cultural and other professional sectors. We are worried that the selection would finally only reflect the benefit of the commercial sector, and could not thoroughly strengthen our local competitiveness. Therefore, it is necessary that the Authority should assess and review the measure from time to time, so that it can be timely adjusted when mutated, to make sure that it is value for money.