Pro-Beijing lawmaker Junius Ho has suggested raising tuition fees at Hong Kong’s universities, reducing the proportion of fees which are covered by the government.

The majority of undergraduate degrees at the city’s universities currently cost local students HK$42,100 per year, after a funding injection from the government’s University Grants Committee (UGC).

Junius Ho Kwan-yiu
Junius Ho Kwan-yiu. File photo: HKFP/Catherine Lai.

Discussing the 2017 Appropriation Bill authorising public expenses, Ho said on Thursday that Hong Kong already implements 12 years of free education in primary and secondary school. However, university fees for local students have not risen for two decades.

“Our university students say that they have it so tough,” said Ho. “After graduating [they say] ‘give me an apartment, give me a unit, give me a good job, don’t bother me with anything across the Shenzhen River’.”

See also: Lawmaker Junius Ho tries to vote in favour of gov’t 12% pay rise, despite not being member of panel

“Is this the type of university student we want to nurture?” he asked. “What I’m saying is they need to have some responsibility.”

“University students should pay for at least 25 per cent of school fees.”

15.8 per cent

In 1991, the British colonial government set the target cost recovery rate for university degree courses in Hong Kong at 18 per cent. This meant that student payments should account for 18 per cent of the actual operating costs for each degree – the remainder would be funded by the UGC.

While tuition fees for local students have not changed since the 1997-98 academic year, the Audit Commission said that the government’s actual cost recovery rate had dropped to 15.8 per cent by the 2015-16 academic year.

university grants committee
University Grants Committee.

Fees for non-local students vary. As of the 2016-17 academic year, most foreign undergraduate students pay HK$146,000 per year at the University of Hong Kong, HK$140,000 at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and HK$120,000 at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

A solicitor by profession, Ho was elected into the legislature representing the New Territories West constituency last year.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.