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University Students: Victims of High Education Expansion

2016/3/11 — 13:38

圖片來源:HKPU Facebook

圖片來源:HKPU Facebook

【by Water Tsui @ Progressive Teachers’ Alliance】

Following the introduction of the “3+3+4” academic structure in the higher education since 2012, there are significant changes in figures on student enrolment at different levels of study in higher education in Hong Kong.

The feature article Hong Kong Monthly Digest of Statistics (August 2014) revealed statistics on students in higher education institutions funded through the UGC (University Grants Committee). Paragraph 3.3 mentioned:

廣告

In terms of student numbers, undergraduate students contributed the largest share of student population, accounting for 84.3% of all UGC-funded programmes in 2013/14, which has increased from 65.0% in 1998/99. The increase is mainly attributable to the introduction of the “3+3+4” academic structure in the higher education sector starting from the 2012/13 academic year under which the normative study period of undergraduate programmes has been extended by 1 year. 

Students enrolled in research postgraduate levels were on a significant rise as well since then. Paragraph 3.5:

廣告

In parallel with the expansion of the undergraduate education over the years, the number of research postgraduate students has also significantly increased. The expansion of research postgraduate population is to meet the growing community needs for better trained talents and the development of a knowledge-based and technology- driven economy. As a result of the expansion of student population at the undergraduate and research postgraduate levels, the combined share of student enrolment of these two levels of study increased from about 70.1% in 1998/99 to 92.0% in 2013/14. 

It was then so well said that the expansion of such population was “to meet the growing community needs for better trained talents and the development of a knowledge-based and technology-driven economy. “

The painful truth is that university curricula are often found too slow to catch up with the current economic needs. Worst still, the economy is growing slowly, unable to offer sufficient job opportunities for all graduates to secure employment, least to mention the knowledge and skills that they want to answer the “growing community needs for better trained talents “. 

The growing population of post secondary students is the temporary failure of growth in income of such households; plus the extra expenditure on students’ university living, soars the growing reliance on student loans. Today, seven out of ten post-secondary students graduate with debt, debt from study loans and/or credit cards.  

Student debt can be a challenge to the government as well as individual.  Referring to the public expenditure, education sector took up the second largest share, just next to infrastructure in 2015; the figure is on the rise. 

Public expenditure by policy area group
 

 HK$ billion
 2009–102013–142014–15
Community and external affairs14.127.712.6
Economic18.437.320.5
Education58.276.473.7
Environment and food13.423.721.5
Health38.467.657.5
Housing16.321.224.4
Infrastructure47.773.874.1
Security29.835.338.9
Social welfare40.455.458.1
Support30.538.942.8
Total307.2457.3424.1
 (-7.2)(+14.3)(-7.3)


Investment in education is vital to all government. Students of higher educational attainment are powerful forces to improve the overall economic wellbeing and prosperity of Hong Kong and thus in return enhance social mobility and satisfaction. However, before maximizing the gain, our government is creating new risks.

The rise in higher education population from 70.1% in 1998/99 to 92.0% in 2013/14 is a call for the simultaneous growth in economy to secure employment of graduates. It is also the government’s role to modernize education curricula, and to incorporate transformational technologies effectively into the economy. The failure of the government to seek ways to boost economic growth apart from infrastructure that creates loads of strenuous jobs is one of the reasons to blame. 
The failure to plan and execute long-term growth potential is another. In such a scenario, the expansion in higher education is not “to meet the growing community needs for better trained talents and the development of a knowledge-based and technology-driven economy “ as quoted earlier on.  On the contrary, it is a means to produce products that the market does not need. 

University students are victims of high education expansion. The slow economic growth and the boost that does not favour university students supply fuel to the fire. The potential danger created by the growing number of post-secondary students graduate with debt should not be underestimated. High student debt undermines social stability and favours delinquency. University students who suffer traumatic pressure of study since young would further be agonized by the tension of paying debt once graduated. The gloomy vision of the future may very often be the last straw that breaks the camel’s back. 

 

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