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On 13 October, Hong Kong announced in its 2010/11 Policy Address the establishment of a HKD 2.5 billion (EUR 232 million) endowment fund to boost the development of the private—or what is termed in Hong Kong ‘self-financing’—post-secondary sector. The fund is designed to provide scholarships and enhance the quality of teaching and learning in self-financed programmes, some of which are run by private institutions and others by publicly-funded institutions and their respective community colleges.
In presenting the policy address, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, Mr. Donald Tsang, reiterated the importance the Hong Kong government attaches to education. Tsang noted that education is the largest single item in the budget, representing more than 20% of total government recurrent expenditures. Education was also highlighted in last year’s policy address as one of Hong Kong’s pillar industries. Yet, privatisation of higher education has also been on the policy agenda of the government for some time and is increasing in importance. Three key initiatives currently provide support for further developments and enhancements of the self-financing sector in higher education. Hong Kong’s Land Grant Scheme, originally launched in 2000 to support a very small number of private institutions, is now being used more strategically to attract private providers to this city of extremely high land prices. A programme of interest-free loans makes it easier for self-financing institutions to erect new buildings and make capital improvements. And a foundation provides financial support to private institutions and programmes eager to undergo costly accreditation processes.
Support for privately-financed programmes and institutions makes sense in Hong Kong because the city’s public institutions have limited capacity to meet local demands. The main challenges to this approach, however, are the same ones seen in many places with a sudden increase in the number of graduates from private programmes—quality and the recognition of degrees.