The Legislative Council has approved a bill to grant university status to the Hong Kong Institute of Education. It will now be renamed The Education University of Hong Kong.
The approval came after almost ten years of campaigning by the former institute. Its first application to become a university was made in 2007, and the University Grants Committee accepted its second application last September.
The bill was supported by all lawmakers present at a meeting on Thursday but one – Wong Ting-kwong of the pro-Beijing camp – who said he made a mistake by pressing the wrong button.
Secretary for Education Eddie Ng welcomed the approval.
“I believe that through these almost ten years’ effort, the HKIEd has been able to make a lot of improvements, including in academic and curriculum quality, in terms of research capability, and also with more positive feedback from principals of schools and so on,” he said.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also congratulated the school’s governing Council, the president, teachers, students and alumni.
“Their hard work over the years is finally bearing fruit. I believe they will make a greater contribution to the development of education in Hong Kong,” Leung said.
Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen, who has worked at HKIEd in the past, expressed his joy after the bill was passed, though he said the process was “very tortuous and bitter” and “full of difficulties”.
In a joint statement, the school’s president Stephen Cheung Yan-leung and Council chairman Pang Yiu-kai said they were most grateful to those who played an important part in the “wonderful achievement”.
“At each step of the way, your hard work, preparation and determination has allowed the Institute to overcome every challenge, laying the solid foundations on which we can further grow and thrive,” they said. “Our strengths and reputation are now recognised locally, regionally and internationally in the school sector and higher education arena, and we shall strive to rise to greater heights in the future.”
The change of title will be gazetted next Friday. It will be the ninth publicly-funded university.
Established in 1994 upon the amalgamation of the former Colleges of Education and the Institute of Language in Education, HKIEd is the only publicly-funded tertiary institution in Hong Kong solely dedicated to professional teacher education.
Universities in Hong Kong have come under pressure in the past year to review the protocol that the Chief Executive of Hong Kong is also the chancellor of all the universities, following accusations of the government meddling with school governance.
Asked by reporters whether the school will review the system, Cheung said it has always existed and he did not see any external forces interfering with its institutional autonomy during his three-year tenure.
He added that, as a school which gets 80 per cent of its funding from public sources, a balance has to be struck between public supervision and autonomy.
Cheung said a consultation will be conducted in September over the governance structure of the school, and that he did not have an established position, but he hoped to canvass constructive opinions.