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Greater flexibility should be considered for Hong Kong universities operating on the mainland, a lawmaker said.
A law should be drafted to allow Hong Kong universities, which are required to run campuses with mainland counterparts, to have a say in setting tuition fees, according to a proposal to the National People's Congress by Ng Ching-fai.
Ng is the president of the United International College in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong province, jointly founded by Beijing Normal University and Hong Kong Baptist University in 2005. The college was the first co-founded by mainland and Hong Kong universities.
Ng said the college's application to set annual tuition fees at 30,000 yuan ($4,750) was rejected by the local watchdog as "too expensive".
"Tuition fees are the only income source for Hong Kong private schools on the mainland," Ng said.
"As we have no grants from the government, nor any donations from the alumni, charging higher than public universities is reasonable," he said.
Ng, who is a Hong Kong deputy to the NPC and former president of Hong Kong Baptist University, also called for allowing private universities, including those set up by Hong Kong universities, to enjoy the same funding opportunities as public ones.
A change in attitudes toward private schools is needed, he said.
"Private schools aren't just 'money makers'. In fact, United International College has been losing money over the past seven years."
The college had been investing most of its earnings to upgrade facilities, such as libraries, and to buy teaching materials.
Private universities will also benefit the education system by making it more diversified and dynamic.
"We had to bring the whole educational and management system of our Hong Kong campus to Zhuhai. Students are educated in English and could choose various courses," Ng said.
Hong Kong universities - including the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University - are in talks with their mainland counterparts to set up branches.
Moreover, traditional culture should be an important element of education on the mainland, said Poon Chung-kwong, former president of Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
"Economic development has been very fast, but some values have been diminished among young people," he said.
"It is necessary to add courses about traditional culture to the public education system," Poon said.
Poon also attended the NPC as an invited member from Hong Kong. A special course on Confucius could be added to the primary school curriculum, he said.
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