The decreasing students?population has been affecting the sector of tertiary education. The number of HKDSE school candidates has slumped by nearly 20% from 71,222 in 2013 to 57,162 this year. Many tertiary colleges have faced difficulties in enrolment, including the Centennial College which mainly offers self-financing degree programs. The College will render all its financial management to HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education (SPACE). Centennial president, Professor John Malpas would step down and Council chairman Linus Cheung Wing-lam resignation will take effect on July 1. Fung Wai-wah, President of the HKPTU, said that due to the drop of the number of school students, the supply of the number of school places of self-financing degree programs will exceed its demand. It is estimated that in the coming 5 to 6 years, around one-third to a half of self-financing associate degree programs will stop running.
Ever-decreasing Students?Population in future
With reference to the information provided by the Finance Committee of the LegCo, there are around 30,000 school places of self-financing associate degree programs and degree programs during the academic year of 2015 ?2016. Including the 15,000 school places of degree programs offered by UGC-funded institutions, there are in total around 45,000 places of higher education programs for the admission of form 6 students. However, referring to the HKDSE Examination report published by Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority, we found that in 2015 the number of students who met the minimum academic requirement for the admission of associate degree programs, which means those who obtained Level 2 or above in five HKDSE subjects including Chinese Language and English Language, was only 41,544. The above data demonstrate that the supply of the number of places of higher education has exceeded its demand. According to the statistics of Education Bureau (EDB) on the students?population, it is speculated that in the coming 5 years the number of form 6 students will be decreasing by around 14%, which means that more difficulties in recruiting students will be confronted among those self-financing program providers.
Deficit Recorded in 4 Self-financing Colleges
HKPTU is from time to time concerned with the financial status of those self-financing colleges under the UGC-funded institutions. Our LegCo representative, Ip Kin-yuen, raised a written question about the utilization of surpluses of UGC-funded institutions on 18 May in the LegCo. With reference to the reply from the Secretary for Education, the deficit was recorded by 4 colleges for the 2014-15 financial year where the deficit of 68 million was documented for Hong Kong Community College of the HK Polytechnic University. Moreover, for the Lingnan Institute of Further Education, not only was the annual deficit of 14 million recorded, but also the amount of deficit of more than 10 million was accumulated as at 2014 ?15 financial year. This financial status is so worrying for the public.
Though surplus was recorded in some colleges, they also need to take some other financial factors into consideration. This can be elaborated by the example like Community College of City University (CCCU) which has accumulated amount of surplus of over 937 million. However, since the Council of City University of Hong Kong approved in 2014 the proposal for the CCCU to form a strategic alliance with the University of Wollongong in 2020, therefore CCCU will need to move out of the current campus and look for a new one, which means that substantial financial resources should be reserved for the development of new campus, its renovation and the purchase or enhancement of new facilities. Moreover, as the diplomas will no longer be issued by CityU in future, this might probably bring a negative impact to the future marketability of the College programs. What more, Community College of Polytechnic University and School of Professional and Continuing Education of the HKU need to repay the outstanding Government loans of about $641 and $205 million respectively and the latter also needs to take over the operation and financial management of Centennial College in future.
Ill-planning on the Number of Places of Self-financing Programs
Fung Wai-wah, President of the HKPTU, attributed the over-expansion of self-financing associate degree programs to the ill-planning on the number of places in the previous years. And the decreasing students?population has led to the situation where the supply of the number of places of self-financing programs has exceeded its demand. Fung estimated that in the coming 5 to 6 years around one-third to a half of the number of self-financing programs will cease running, and the number of self-financing associate degree programs of at least 8 tertiary colleges is about to be reduced, including Li Ka Shing Institute of Professional and Continuing Education of the Open University of Hong Kong, the Education University of Hong Kong and School of Continuing and Professional Studies of the CUHK.
Wong Pik-wan, ExCo member of the HKPTU, also attributed the current situation of the sector of higher education to the side-effect of the corporatization of higher education initiated by the government. She criticized that the Government only expanded the number of self-financing programs due to the expected high demand for talents in society, but did not do thorough planning on the higher education. She was worried that the current situation would only be the tip of the iceberg. If the colleges cease to operate, it will have a great impact on teachers and students. Therefore she urged the government to strive for resolving the operation difficulties faced by the self-financing programs before the new recruitment of the programs, so that the students can finish their studies with no worries on closure of college.