For discussion
on 17 October 1997


New Capital Account Subhead "Grant to the Open University of Hong Kong"

Members are invited to approve the creation of a new commitment and supplementary provision of $50 million in 1997-98 for a grant to the Open University of Hong Kong to support its development as a centre of excellence in distance learning and adult education.


The Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) requires financial support from Government for its development as a centre of excellence in distance learning and adult education.


2.The Secretary for Education and Manpower proposes to make a one-off grant of $50 million to the OUHK to support the development of a centre of excellence in distance learning and adult education.


Areas of Excellence in Tertiary Institutions

3.It has always been the Government's objective to maintain and promote Hong Kong's status as a regional education service centre by providing quality tertiary education and developing world-class institutions. This is reaffirmed in the University Grants Committee (UGC)'s 1996 report "Higher Education in Hong Kong". The report recommended that if Hong Kong is to retain its leading economic position in the Pacific Rim, it will need world-class institutions. To achieve this goal, the UGC-funded institutions will develop their respective areas of excellence which will be recognised internationally as of equal status to their peers in the same subject area. These institutions are putting in additional resources, through both UGC funds and their own sources of income, in state-of-the-art facilities and activities to achieve this objective.

The Open University of Hong Kong

4.Outside the UGC sector, the OUHK (formerly known as the Open Learning Institute of Hong Kong (OLI)) plays a pivotal role in providing higher education opportunities to all those who had to forgo, or did not have the opportunity of, higher education when they left school. The OUHK is also the key provider of continuing education and retraining to upgrade and update the workforce to adapt to technological, economic and social changes. The OUHK complements the formal tertiary education system and promotes life-time learning in Hong Kong. Since its establishment in 1989, the OUHK has been offering sub-degree, degree and postgraduate programmes. It now has over 20 000 students, the majority of whom are working adults. With its good track record and sound quality assurance mechanisms, it became the seventh university in Hong Kong in May 1997.

5.The OUHK has an increasingly important role to play as there is now a strong demand amongst new arrivals from the mainland of China for good Chinese-medium or bilingual distance learning and adult education programmes. Enrolment in these programmes will enable those economically active new arrivals to upgrade themselves and to acquire the skills for joining the local workforce. In anticipation of this demand and its enhanced role, the OUHK has established a Centre for Research on Distance Learning and Adult Education with its own resources. The Centre's activities are however constrained by the resources available. Some financial support from Government is necessary to give further impetus to this undertaking.

6.We propose to make a one-off grant of $50 million to the OUHK as start-up funds to facilitate its further development into a regional centre of excellence in distance learning and adult education. Specifically, the University will focus on the following areas of work -

  1. carrying out a research programme to identify the appropriate use of communications and new technology for open and distance learning, such as the use of desktop video conferencing as a computer mediated communication medium for the delivery of instruction and a web-based Internet telephony for on-line open education;

  2. implementing a number of teaching and learning initiatives by, for instance, incorporating the use of multi-media elements and the Internet into course and programme delivery. This would involve application of the latest technologies ranging from CD-ROM for the presentation of course materials to the use of the Internet for content delivery and support services such as electronic tutorials, assignment submission and "virtual" student common rooms. The University intends to produce electronic versions of up to 20 courses by 2005;

  3. development of courses and assessment methodologies for language enhancement on a "mass' scale. The University plans to develop expertise in this area and produce 'state of the art" language enhancement courses, pedagogically and economically suitable for a mass audience;

  4. further development of the University's expertise in, and production of, course materials in Chinese language; and

  5. promoting best practices, and providing advice and consultancy in instructional materials design, teaching methodologies and pedagogy associated with distance learning and adult education throughout the world but principally in the mainland of China and the South East Asia region.

7.By developing itself into a centre of excellence in distance learning and adult education, the OUHK will be able to expand its role in the professional development and consultancy in the field throughout the region. There will be more opportunities for local people and Chinese communities around the world to upgrade themselves through the OUHK's courses. A centre of excellence in distance learning and adult education will also promote Hong Kong's status as a regional educational centre.


8.Subject to Members' approval of this proposal, we will offset the supplementary provision required in 1997-98 by deleting an equivalent amount from Head 106 Miscellaneous Services Subhead 789 Additional commitments.


9.The OLI was established by Ordinance in 1989 to enhance higher education opportunities for adult learners in Hong Kong through open access and distance learning. It has been playing an increasingly important role in upgrading and updating the qualifications and skills of the local working population. It obtained university status in May 1997.

10.The OUHK operates on a self-financing basis with income mainly from student fees. In the past few years, we have provided a number of capital grants to finance worthwhile initiatives of the OUHK. These include grants for course development and research and for setting up an electronic library.

11.In his 1997 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced our proposal for a $50 million grant to the OUHK to develop adult distance learning courses in both English and Chinese, to serve Hong Kong and mainland students. He said that our goal is turn the OUHK into a centre of excellence in adult education and distance learning.

Education and Manpower Bureau
October 1997