For discussion FCR(96-97)59
on 19 July 1996


New Capital Account Subhead "Grant to the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong for the establishment of an electronic library"

Members are invited to approve the creation of a new subhead with a commitment of $20 million for a one-off grant to the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong to meet in part the cost of establishing an electronic library.


The Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong (OLI) does not have sufficient funds to establish an electronic library to improve its library facilities for both students and staff.


2. The Secretary for Education and Manpower proposes the creation of a new subhead with a commitment of $20 million to meet half of the cost required for the establishment of an electronic library for the OLI.


3. The electronic library is an automated library system accessible through computer network on a 24-hour basis both on and off campus. It will provide OLI staff and students on-line access to the library catalogues of major local and overseas academic institutions through the HARNET and the INTERNET, and a wide variety of CD-ROM databases, electronic references and services relevant to the courses and research of the Institute. The OLI plans to set up the library in 18 months and acquire initially 1 000 electronic titles1 , which are equivalent to 300 000 volumes of printed texts and will increase the existing OLI library collection by ten times. A summary of the major functions of the electronic library is at Enclosure 1.

4. Unlike students in conventional tertiary institutions, distance learners served by the OLI are mostly full-time working adults. They do not attend conventional classes; rather they are in fuller charge of their own learning, choosing what, where and when to study. While printed texts remain at the core of their self-studies, it is frequently supplemented by television broadcast and learning material in the form of audio, video or computer software. Moreover, tutors, students and the Institute rely largely on telecommunication, via telephones, facsimiles and computer network, rather than face-to-face contact to maintain close connection with each other.

5. Like other tertiary institutions, the library is one of the vital facilities for teaching, learning and research at the OLI. The OLI library on the new Homantin campus currently has a collection of about 30 000 volumes plus 1 200 serial titles and a seating capacity of 300. This compares unfavourably with the much larger library resources of other local tertiary institutions and is inadequate to meet the needs of up to 20 000 students currently enrolled on OLI courses. This constraint in turn poses an obstacle to the future development of the Institute in terms of increase in student intake and enhancement of academic quality.

6. To substantially improve the library facilities and expand the reference resources available to its students within the limited space of the new campus, a cost-effective option is for the OLI to capitalise on the recent advancements in telecommunication and information technology by establishing an electronic library. As almost 80% of OLI students have access to a personal computer at home or in the work place and most of them are computer literate, they are well-equipped and ready to make use of such a facility.

7. The OLI electronic library has the following advantages over a conventional library -

  1. it will allow the OLI to provide its students, the majority of whom have to meet both the demands of their full-time employment and their families, a safe and supervised resource centre that opens 24 hours a day and seven days a week;
  2. it will make library resources more readily available to those OLI students with special needs, such as the disabled, the house-bound and the institutionalised;
  3. it is not subject to the same constraint of physical size of the library or available space;
  4. it is more cost effective because learning materials in electronic form can be shared by multiple users and a larger user population can be served with only a moderate increase in library staff; and
  5. the electronic titles acquired will increase the OLI library collection immediately by 10 times. Subject to availability of funds, the OLI can readily increase the collection of electronic titles and easily upgrade the network to accommodate future growth in student and staff population as well as development of teaching and research activities.

Funding options

8. The OLI will need $40 million to set up the electronic library. It will only be able to finance half of the cost with private donations and a loan. There will be a shortfall of $20 million. As a self-financing institution, the OLI does not receive Government subvention on a recurrent basis but relies on tuition fee income to meet its recurrent expenditure. The Institute has already planned to increase its fee levels by an average of 10% in 1996-97. If it were to raise the remaining $20 million for the establishment of the electronic library through fees, it would have to increase its 1996-97 fee levels at least by another 6.6%. Alternatively, the OLI could incur a $20 million deficit for the setting up of the electronic library. But that would almost double the total deficit accumulated by the Institute since 1993 and upset its plan to pay off all its deficit before 2005. Another possibility would be to delay the project for another year or two until further private donations could be secured. None of these funding options would be in the best interests of a local workforce seeking to upgrade its qualifications and adapt its skills to meet the challenges of economic changes in Hong Kong. We propose therefore to provide the OLI with a $20 million one-off grant to enable it to implement the electronic library project now.


9. The OLI estimates that the total setting up cost of the electronic library will be $40 million at current price level. A breakdown of the estimates is at Enclosure 2. We propose to provide the OLI with a $20 million one-off grant to meet half of the cost of the project. If Members approve the commitment, we will approve the necessary supplementary provision under delegated authority and offset it by deleting an equivalent amount under Head 106 Miscellaneous Services Subhead 789 Additional commitments.

10. The OLI will meet the remaining $20 million required for the electronic library through a grant of $10 million from the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust and a grant of $5 million and an interest-free loan of $5 million from the Croucher Foundation. The OLI will finance the longer term maintenance and updating costs from its own revenue and private donations.


11. The OLI, established by Ordinance in 1989 to enhance higher education opportunities for adult learners in Hong Kong through open access and distance learning, is playing an increasingly important role in upgrading and updating the qualifications and skills of the local working population. To date more than 1 700 students have graduated with a bachelor's degree from the OLI, and about 20 000 students are currently enrolled in the various sub-degree, undergraduate and postgraduate courses and programmes offered by the Institute.

12. The Government provided a setting up grant for the establishment of the OLI in 1989, as well as recurrent subvention to the Institute from 1989-90 to 1992-93, after which the OLI became self-financing on a recurrent basis. The Government also provided a number of capital grants, as set out below, to help the Institute meet certain major capital expenditures -


Financial year

$ million

Student Loan Fund



Research Grant





Education and Manpower Branch
July 1996

1 -- Electronic titles are books, periodicals nad references tools in digitised format.

Enclosure 1 to FCR(96-97)59

Functions and Advantages of the Open Learning Institute Electronic Library


The Open Learning Institute (OLI) Electronic Library is basically a computer-based system with network capability. Given a personal computer, a modem and a telephone line, any OLI student, tutor or course co-ordinator can enter the Electronic Library network and access the electronic resources therein at any time from anywhere. The system will enable -

  1. remote access to the library catalogues of the OLI and University Grants Committee-funded institutions;
  2. dial-in access to electronic information available on the library network and access to CD-ROM and other electronic databases for title or full-text search;
  3. provision of information services and instructions and delivery of electronic documents to users through the network system; and
  4. both local and international on-line literature search through the INTERNET for the purpose of teaching and research.

Enclosure 2 to FCR(96-97)59

Breakdown of the amount required for the establishment of the Open Learning Institute Electronic Library

$ million

$ million

(a) Additional hardware platform with large storage space


(b) Additional peripherals

(hardware plus installation, application software, user-licence, cabling, documentation, consultancy and training)

(i) Computer outlets


(ii) CD-ROM towers


(iii) Personal computers for dial-in mapping


(iv) Image scanners



(c) Modem set-up for 128 Dial-in lines


(d) Common User Interface

(to enable access to library main catalogues, local databases and other electronic references)


(e) Information Literacy Programmes

(including printing of brochure, audio/video/interactive on-line instruction programmes)


(f) Additional Dynix Modules for information access


(g) A collection of 1 000 electronic titles


(h) Contingency and maintenance

(for the first two years)




Last Updated on 2 December 1998