Lingnan University (Amendment) Bill 2023
President, I submit the report in my capacity as the Chairman of the Bills Committee.
Lingnan University (Amendment) Bill 2023 (“the Bill”) is a Member’s Bill introduced by Prof LAU Chi-pang. The Bill seeks to amend the Lingnan University Ordinance (Cap. 1165) to allow the Lingnan University (“LU”) Council to delegate to a committee it created or appointed or to the LU President the power to approve the terms and conditions of service of individual staff; stipulate the LU Senate’s duty to direct and regulate matters relating to intellectual property rights and knowledge transfer; allow the appointment of up to three Vice-Presidents (“VPs”); amend the student membership in the LU Council (“the Council”) and the LU Court (“the Court”); and provide for related matters.
The Bills Committee has held one meeting with LU and the Administration, and members have raised no objection to the Bill. During the deliberation of the Bill, members have expressed their views mainly on the student membership in the Court and the Council and the number of VPs.
Under the existing Cap. 1165, the President of the Students’ Union of LU (“LUSU”) is an ex-officio member of the Court and the Council. The Bill proposes to increase the number of student members in the Court and the Council from one to two by replacing the LUSU President as an ex-officio member in each of them with one full-time student elected by and from the undergraduate students and one full-time student elected by and from the postgraduate students respectively.
Some members consider that increasing the number of student members of the Court and the Council can strengthen students’ participation in university business and ensure students’ right to be heard. There is also a view that given the functions of university councils, it is not appropriate to have student members therein and LU should take the current legislative exercise to exclude student representation from its Council.
As regards student membership of the Council, a member has pointed out that the LUSU President has all along been an ex-officio member of the Council. Hence, it is suggested that LU can consider continuing the existing arrangement for the LUSU President to serve as an ex-officio Council member, and adding one student Council member to be elected by and from all postgraduate students.
LU has advised that students are LU’s key stakeholders, and it is believed that the inclusion of student members in the Court and the Council can play an active role in enhancing the communication between students and LU. However, the arrangement for the LUSU President to serve as an ex-officio member of the Council has shown to be undesirable given the development of LUSU in the past ten years. Besides, the existing LUSU does not adequately represent LU students, as less than 8% of LU students are its members. Thus, having student Council members to be elected by and from all full-time undergraduate students and all full-time postgraduate students respectively will ensure that these student members can adequately represent the interest of the entire undergraduate and postgraduate bodies.
Some members are worried that in cases where LUSU and the student members on the Court and the Council hold different views on certain issues, it may be difficult to reach consensus. LU has advised that upon the passage of the Bill, the two elected student members will formally represent LU students in university business. In cases where LUSU has views to express to the Court and the Council, it can submit the views direct or through the elected student members.
Noting that LU will prepare new statutes governing the election of student members of the Court and the Council, members have suggested that LU should consider whether it should be stipulated that the candidates must possess an affection for the country, the city and the university; whether the Council will be given the right not to appoint the elected student members whom it considers not appropriate for appointment; and whether the new relevant statutes will be sent to Legislative Council Members for information, etc.
Regarding the proposed amendment on the appointment of VPs, some members consider that the appointment of up to three VPs may not be able to cope with LU’s future development. They think that LU can consider drawing reference from the relevant ordinances of other University Grants Committee (“UGC”)-funded universities to remove the restriction on the number of VPs and provide the Council with the flexibility to determine the number of VPs from time to time.
LU has advised that reference has been drawn from other local universities when deciding the proposed number of VPs, and it has noted that there are three to six Pro-Vice-Chancellors/VPs in these universities. After taking into account LU’s anticipated expansion and its staff members’ views, LU considers the appointment of up to three VPs appropriate and adequate. LU will seek the Legislative Council’s approval to amend Cap. 1165 to the effect that the number of VPs be increased in a manner to be determined by the Council from time to time when such need arises.
Lastly, in response to the Legal Adviser’s advice on the legal and drafting aspects of the Bill, Prof LAU Chi-pang has proposed amendments to the Bill to further improve its contents. The Bills Committee agreed to Prof LAU Chi-pang’s proposed amendments and will not propose any amendments to the Bill.
President, the above is my report on the deliberation of the Bills Committee, and the following are my views and observations when scrutinizing the Bill. During the scrutiny of the Bill, two major issues have been discussed: first, the student membership in the Court and the Council. Under the existing Ordinance, the LUSU President is an ex-officio member of the Court and the Council respectively. The Bill amends the method for selecting student members of the Court and the Council by replacing the LUSU President as an ex-officio member with one full-time student elected by and from the undergraduate students in accordance with statutes and appointed by the Council and one full-time student elected by and from the postgraduate students in accordance with statutes and appointed by the Council.
As I have just reported, during the discussion of the Bill, some members considered that the proposed amendments were a desirable step forward in enhancing student participation in university business, while others considered it inappropriate to include student representatives as members in view of the functions of the Council. LU, on the other hand, considers that students are the key stakeholders and attaches great importance to students’ participation in university business. It believes that the proposed amendments can enhance communication between the students and LU.
Currently, three UGC-funded universities, including LU, appoint the President of the Students’ Union as an ex-officio member of the Council. However, the current membership coverage of LUSU is relatively low. Student members elected by and from all full-time undergraduate and postgraduate students can indeed better protect the interest of all students and they will be more representative.
During the discussion, members enquired whether LU had consulted LUSU on the proposed amendments concerning the student membership of the Court and the Council, while the Bills Committee had openly solicited public views. In fact, LUSU made a submission in April this year expressing some of its different views, and LU responded on 12 May and clarified all the queries one by one, mentioning that the then President or Acting President of LUSU had been involved in all the decision-making processes and no objection was raised.
Some members are of the view that the students’ union is part and parcel of a university and should be given continuous assistance. LU responded that despite the undesirable development of LUSU in the past few years, LU would continue to provide support to the healthy development of LUSU and student societies and it has been supporting LUSU to organize activities in relation to the learning domains of LU’s Integrated Learning Programme for the benefits of students.
The second issue is the number of VPs. Originally, the Council could only appoint a VP to assist the President in carrying out his duties after consultation with the Court. The Bill proposes an amendment to allow for the appointment of up to three VPs. In fact, all universities, except LU, have more than one Pro-Vice-Chancellor/VP in their senior management team. Although the number of VPs has been increased to three this time, some members expressed worries during the discussion that the amendment might not be able to cope with the future expansion of LU and asked whether consideration would be given to introducing more flexible provisions, such as wordings to the effect that the number of VPs can be determined from time to time.
LU has advised that after considering its anticipated expansion and staff members’ views, LU considers the appointment of up to three VPs appropriate and adequate and will consider the matter again when such need arises in the future. This shows the very pragmatic attitude of LU’s management.
Apart from the two major amendments and other amendments mentioned above, Prof LAU Chi-pang, the initiator of the Members’ Bill, has also made some minor amendments to the Bill in the light of the views and suggestions of the Bills Committee and the Legal Adviser to the Legislative Council.
I support the passage of this Bill and all the amendments. I so submit. Thank you, President.