HC Deb 09 April 1948 vol 449 cc30-2W
Mr. Bowles

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what progress has been made with the restoration of university facilities in Hong Kong.

Mr. Creech Jones

In 1939 a Committee appointed by the Chancellor recommended a modest scheme for the development of the University in order that it might more adequately fulfil the purposes for which it was established, namely: to be a centre of British University life not only for the Colony but for the contiguous areas of China. The Committee's recommendations were approved by the Government of Hong Kong and gained the sympathetic interest of His Majesty's Government. War came before most of the changes recommended could be initiated. After the liberation of Hong Kong the whole question of the future of the University was considered by a Committee in London, appointed by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. This Committee recommended the re-establishment of the University with staff and facilities on a much more extensive scale than hitherto, involving capital expenditure which the Committee tentatively estimated at approximately £1,000,000, and recurrent expenditure of £85,600 per annum. The Committee took the view that if the University could not be reestablished with the standards which they recommended so that it could bear comparison with Universities in the United Kingdom and with Chinese Universities, it would be better not to re-establish it at all.

The Committee's recommendation involved substantial financial assistance from United Kingdom funds. Its further consideration has, unfortunately, had to be deferred owing to the present conditions in the United Kingdom. The Hong Kong Government and the Secretary of State for the Colonies do not, however, consider that it would be right to delay any further a decision on the re-establishment of the University, and it has been decided that steps should be taken now to restore the University, as rapidly as possible, to its status and scope of 1940.

While these matters have been under discussion care for higher educational needs in the Colony has been met by the provision of teaching for men and women who aim at courses leading to degrees in Arts, Science, Civil Engineering and Medicine. The need of the Colony for teachers, civil engineers and doctors is sufficient reason for this attempt to maintain the continuity of training for the professions in Hong Kong. To achieve this end, an Interim Committee was established to organise and conduct essential teaching, and a temporary Provisional Powers Committee was established by Order-in-Council to carry out certain essential functions of the University. The Interim Committee, with full approval of the Provisional Powers Committee, determined that, faced by shortage of staff and destruction of the greater part of the University buildings, laboratories and equipment, it could only reconstruct an institution of University status by building up, as it were, from the bottom, and therefore admitted in 1946 students to first year classes, and in 1947 students to first year and second year classes. So, year by year, the student body of the University is being re-established. Buildings have been restored as they were required and equipment ordered (mainly in the United Kingdom) has come to hand, but very much more slowly than was hoped, and at greater cost.

The success of these extemporised measures has been such that it is now believed that the time has come formally to restore the University by the re-establishment of its governing authorities. This has been made practicable by a generous decision of the Government of Hong Kong to undertake the greater part of the financial burden of restoring the whole of the University buildings and equipment. The University is, therefore, in a position to assume that by the year 1952, by suc- cessive stages, it will be able to do all the work that it was equipped to perform in the year 1940.

As soon as the University authorities have been appointed and are able to meet, measures can be taken to fill vacancies in the staff of the University caused by deaths and retirement. Immediate steps will be taken for the selection of men for the Professorships in Medicine, Surgery, Pathology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and for Lectureships in some of these subjects. Recruitment of suitable men at this time will be difficult but it is confidently expected that the kind of work that can be offered to men will attract them to the Colony.

The return to the status of 1940 should mean that development then in progress will be taken up at the point then reached. This means that Honours courses in various subjects within the faculties of Arts and Science will again be offered from September, 1948, that an increased number of medical students will be admitted and that provision for postgraduate studies in medicine will be made. Provision may have to be made for pre-clinical studies in Dentistry. Training of teachers of English for China can easily be combined with the training of teachers for the schools of the Colony. In place of the degree course in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, which the University in 1939 had decided to relinquish, provision may possibly be made for the training of architects.

The purposes for which the University was founded are not forgotten, and, as already indicated, the question of developing it to the standards recommended by the Committee will be further considered as soon as practicable. In the meantime the re-establishment of the University on its 1940 scale will, in itself, provide an opportunity for growth, not necessarily in numbers but in maturity and in diversity of activities. The incentive towards growth will come from within the University and from the desire of the people of Hong Kong that the University should reflect in realms of science and intelligence, the success of the Colony in the realms of trade and industry. The interest of the Colony is shown in the generous measure of immediate help given by the Hong Kong Government.