UGC Report: CE Appointment of Council Members Hardly Meets Institutions Needs PTU News Reporter

PTU News Reporter

The Education Bureau announced on 30 March that the Government endorsed the report of “Governance in UGC-funded Higher Education Institutions in Hong Kong” of the University Grants Committee (UGC). The report has looked into the governance structure of different international institutions and made comparisons of the governance of the UGC-funded institutions. Six recommendations have been proposed which includes that some council members of the UGC-funded institutions appointed by the Chief Executive do not cater to the needs of the institutions. However the report does not cover the appointment of the Chief Executive as the Chancellor of the institutions and its powers. Ip Kin-yuen, our representative of the Legco, is disappointed that the report misses the boat and does not touch on the above issue. He urges the Government not to beat around the bush and they should address timely the public request of reviewing and amending the ordinances of different institutions.

At the Education Bureau’s request in December 2013, the UGC embarked on a study on governance of UGC-funded institutions. Howard Newby, the immediate past Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool, was commissioned by the UGC to conduct the study and prepare the report. The first draft of the report was finished in January 2015, just before the unrest taking place last year in the University of Hong Kong about the issue of the interference with academic freedom and institution autonomy under the inefficient governance structure. We feel so sorry that the report could not address this issue timely.

Though the report does not discuss the loophole of the Chief Executive being the Chancellor of the institutions, it has still looked into the problems caused by the Chief Executive?s appointment of the council members of the institutions. The report suggests that the recruitment and identification of suitable members should be made with regard to a skills template which each institution should draw up and keep under review. Currently the Chief Executive has power to appoint a large proportion of council members, but the report has also mentioned that this appointment can hardly meet universities? needs to fill the requisite range of skills and expertise required to discharge councils? responsibilities.

Therefore, we demand that the Chief Executive should be stripped of his power to appoint members and the institutions should be empowered to select and appoint their own council members with regard to their own skills template, or the council members can be directly elected by teachers, staff members and students. Newby also mentioned in his report that governing bodies in other countries select council members themselves and a search committee is established to take charge of this task. Hong Kong?s system of recruiting university council members by the head of Government was unusual. Therefore, we will continue to fight for the review and amendment of the university ordinances, so that the Chief Executive will no longer be empowered to select council members.