Quality Manual – Chapter 5

QA System of Award-bearing Programmes

5.1. Introduction and Approval of Programmes

All SPCEPs should follow the established procedures governing the introduction and approval of SPCEPs. Upon receipt of the final approval by the Senate, the SPCEPs can start the enrolment of students. Core information with relevance to the academic quality of the potential programmes should be given in the programme proposals. In planning new programmes, the SDPUs should use the template Proposal for Introduction of New Self-financed Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programme (SPCEP) and make reference to the detailed guidelines for the formal submission of programme proposals (Appendix 5-1).

Before submitting the programme proposals to the Senate SPCEP for approval by the Senate, the SDPUs must obtain endorsement or approval from their respective Faculty Boards, i.e. the governing bodies of the SDPUs.

At the CUSCS, it is the Academic Board of the CUSCS to vet and endorse the offering of programmes. Before these programmes of a HKQF level are to be vetted and endorsed by the Senate SPCEP, they are required to undergo a QA procedure named Faculty Consultation coordinated by the Secretariat of the Senate SPCEP at the University level. The proformas related to this QA process are in Appendix 5-2.

The flowcharts on the procedures for introducing new SPCEPs offered by Faculties and the CUSCS are in Appendix 5-3 and Appendix 5-4 respectively.

5.1.1. Programme and Award Titles

All programme and award titles should fall within the range of titles or qualifications permitted by the University, and fulfill the requirements of the ATS under the HKQF in alignment with the HKQF. Strong justification to exclude from placing onto HKQR is required for approval by the Senate SPCEP. As a standard practice across the University, the award title should fully correspond with its programme title. The only difference lies in the inclusion of the word “Programme” in the programme title6.

5.1.2. Evidence of Demand

The SDPUs should align the development of programmes with their respective academic priorities and policies, as well as the priorities identified in the Strategic Goal Statements for SPCEPs under Section 1.2. Risk factors including the viability and sustainability of the potential programmes are taken into serious consideration at the programme development stage.

Proposals for launching new SPCEPs must be supported by strong evidence of demand. A brief description of such demand with evidence must be given in the programme proposal.

5.1.3. Admission Requirements

The SDPUs should ensure that the admission requirements of the new programmes adhere to the prescribed standards of the University (Appendix 4-1). Any deviance from these admission standards must be supported with strong justifications in the programme proposals.

After the programme proposals are approved by the Senate, the SDPUs should ensure that the admission requirements of Senate approved programmes are consistently upheld. If professional accreditation is critical to the official recognition by professional bodies, the SDPUs must ensure that their SPCEPs are in strict compliance with the requirements of the professional bodies concerned.

With regard to the full-time Higher Diploma programmes, the CUSCS must abide by the admission requirements of the Updated Revised Common Descriptors for Associate Degree and Higher Diploma Programmes as promulgated by the EDB of the HKSAR Government (Appendix 5-5).

If special considerations are granted to students with exceptionable capabilities other than the admission requirements or other acceptable equivalent qualifications specified by the Higher Diploma programmes, each special admission case must be submitted for consideration of approval by the Special Admission Task Force under the Senate SPCEP or its delegated authority before the student concerned is admitted. Key information such as the applicant’s academic qualifications and other areas of achievements should be provided in the Proforma for Special Admission to Higher Diploma Programme for final decision (Appendix 5-6).

5.1.4. Programme Background and Objectives

A well-designed programme involves different stages of development within the SDPUs, resulting in a number of focused objectives to be achieved by the introduction of the new programme.

5.1.5. Expected Learning Outcomes

An outcomes-based approach (OBA), with a focus on student learning outcomes, is universally adopted across the University in its T&L activities. It is of paramount importance that the SDPUs must devise and articulate the expected learning outcomes of the new SPCEPs with reference to the needs of the community and the workforce, as well as external benchmarks such as the Generic Level Descriptors under the HKQF (Appendix 5-7) or the prevailing standards adopted by similar programmes in the HKSAR.

The achievement of expected learning outcomes is expressed through other key aspects of the SPCEPs such as the curriculum design, student assessment, etc.

5.1.6. Programme Content and Hours

The programme content is designed with an aim to achieve the expected learning outcomes of the programme. There must be an alignment between the learning outcomes at programme level and the learning outcomes at course level. Every course must make partial or integrated contributions to the programme intended learning outcomes. A template on Course by Learning Outcomes Matrix should be submitted to illustrate the alignment (Appendix 5-8).

In planning a new course, the SDPUs should provide essential course information such as course content, learning outcomes, and learning activities in the template Course Description Form (Appendix 5-9) as a formal submission of the course documents.

The contact hours of all SPCEPs must comply with the University’s framework (Appendix 4-1). SPCEPs in alignment with the HKQF must also comply with the requirements of ATS and QF credits.

5.1.7. Teaching Resources

The SDPUs must appoint a Programme Director to oversee the academic and teaching quality of the programme.

The SDPUs must deploy teaching staff with an appropriate level of qualifications, professional experience and competence to deliver the programmes. All recruitment processes must be in line with the human resources policies and practices of the University and the SDPUs. Information critical to the quality of student learning experience such as the sources of teaching staff, the class venue or other learning resources provided by the joint organizers when applicable, etc. are to be given in the programme proposals. The estimated teaching staff cost, the percentage of the total staff cost over total expenditure, as well as the classroom rental expenses of the programme must be given in the proposed budget to the Finance Office (Appendix 5-10). Details are covered in Section 5.1.11.

In support of professional development and training, teaching staff at the rank of Assistant Professor or below within their first contract have to complete a package of seminars and workshops offered by the Centre for Learning Enhancement And Research (CLEAR), which are termed the “Professional Development Course” (PDC). It is expected that SDPUs would provide professional development activities, e.g. orientation and training, to the teaching staff as appropriate.

5.1.8. Assessment Methods

The SDPUs must follow their respective academic policies governing the extent and nature of student assessment. Assessment methods must be designed in alignment with the programme learning outcomes to gauge the progress of students in achieving the expected learning outcomes of the programmes. Details of the assessment policy of SPCEPs are in Appendix 5-11.

The final grades awarded to students in a course should reflect their individual achievements pegged or criterion-referenced to the course learning outcomes, in which the course outline should specify the criteria for the various grades. Measures to safeguard against grade inflation should be firmly in place, while very broad guidelines on grade distribution should be followed in framing these standards.

The SDPUs must ensure that the grading is fair and consistent. In case of grade appeals, cheating or plagiarism, the SDPUs must follow their respective policies. It must be emphasized that there should be zero tolerance towards academic dishonesty including plagiarism. On the other hand, there is a policy for students to consult the teacher(s)/assessment panel or examination board concerned within a prescribed week(s) of the release of academic results for relevant term should there be a query on the grade given for any courses.

5.1.9. Student Support and Participation

Student support services catering to the needs of SPCEP students, especially full-time Higher Diploma students, are provided by the SDPUs, i.e. the CUSCS, in the offering of Higher Diploma programmes. With a view to preparing graduates of Higher Diploma students for further studies and initial employment at the para-professional level, the CUSCS is obliged to provide holistic education through a suite of diversified activities and learning opportunities for their growth and development.

5.1.10. Graduation Requirements

A set of graduation requirements for SPCEPs is prescribed to monitor the programme quality at exit level. The graduation requirements, including the minimum percentage of attendance, as well as the minimum level of achievements in terms of Cumulative Grade Points Average (CGPA), grade or even raw score, are the standards that the students must have attained for the purpose of graduation.

These graduation requirements are also the major check points for monitoring the University’s graduation standards. Details are covered in Chapter 7.

5.1.11. Tuition Fees and Proposed Budget

The SDPUs must set a reasonable level of tuition fees to reflect the operational cost of the SPCEPs. The template Budget Proposal for New Self-financed Sub-degree Programmes (i.e. Category 2 Programme7) provides financial guidance to the new programme in resources management from both the accounting and educational perspectives (Appendix 5-10). The proposed budget includes items such as the income budget, staff cost budget, non-staff cost budget, etc., which should be submitted to the Finance Office for approval before inclusion into the programme proposal for submission to the Senate SPCEP.

When the academic merits of the proposed SPCEPs are approved by the Senate, the SDPUs are responsible for working out the financial arrangements with the Director of Finance before the formal offering of the SPCEPs.

5.1.12. Projected Student Intake

The SDPUs must project the student intake with close reference to their physical and teaching resources. A reasonable teacher-to-student ratio must be maintained for all SPCEPs.

5.1.13. Programme Monitoring

The SDPUs must continuously monitor the programme quality to ensure that the programme learning outcomes can be achieved at the point of graduation. Opinions from external sources such as external examiners or external advisors should be gathered for the SPCEPs.

An evaluation must be conducted to collect students’ feedback about the courses they take and the teachers of the courses. The University’s standardized template Course and Teaching Evaluation (CTE) Questionnaire is used to collect students’ feedback at course level (Appendix 5-12). Programmes are expected to take follow up actions with the CTE findings for making continuous enhancements. It is recommended that the SDPUs conduct an annual programme review to reflect upon the T&L activities of the SPCEPs with reference to the findings of the CTE and also the Integrated Framework for Curriculum Development and Review: III. Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programmes (Appendix 5-13). Details of the Integrated Framework for the SPCEPs are covered in Section 5.2.1.

5.1.14. Articulation Route/Recognition by Professional Body

As far as applicable, the SDPUs should map out the articulation route or professional recognition/accreditation for the SPCEPs on offer. If articulation route or professional recognition/accreditation is factored in, the SDPUs must keep up with the current and future developments of the external institutions or professional bodies concerned.

5.1.15. Employment Opportunity

The curriculum of new SPCEPs in full-time mode, in particular Higher Diploma programmes, is mainly designed for preparing students for employment at para-professional level in future. The current and future needs of the community and the workforce must be factored in.

The curriculum of new SPCEPs in part-time mode should regularly be updated with the latest employment trend and knowledge in the field, so that the employability of graduates can be enhanced.

5.1.16. HKQF Level and Credits

In planning new SPCEPs, the programmes to be offered by the SDPUs with a designated HKQF level should fulfill the prescribed requirements of the HKQF, including the ATS (Appendix 4-2). A set of templates developed by the HKCAAVQ and the Senate SPCEP (Appendix 5-14) can be used by the SDPUs to facilitate the assignment of HKQF level and QF credits.

A Credit Accumulation and Transfer (CAT) policy for SPCEPs at the institutional level, i.e. CAT(I), is in Appendix 5-15.

5.2. Monitoring of Programmes at University Level
5.2.1. Integrated Framework for Curriculum Development and Review: III. Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programmes (SPCEP) and Meta-analysis of Programme Review Reports of HKQF Level 4 by CLEAR

All SPCEPs, regardless of their HKQF levels, are under the Integrated Framework for Curriculum Development and Review: III. Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programmes (Appendix 5-13). The Integrated Framework for the SPCEPs serves as the QA framework for T&L of the University in governing the SPCEPs.

As a framework of review at course level, all courses must be regularly reviewed by the teachers concerned and their respective programme committees. At the programme level, all SPCEPs at HKQF Levels 4-6 must be reviewed by a programme review panel on a regular cycle as determined by the Senate SPCEP. For the SPCEPs at HKQF Levels 1-3, their governing boards are responsible for deciding the review cycle of the SPCEPs. A set of guidelines and checklist was designed to assist the SDPUs (Appendix 5-16). The Senate SPCEP considers and reviews the  programme review documents. Furthermore, the Senate SPCEP, with the assistance of the CLEAR, conducts a meta-analysis of all the programme review documents for identification and sharing of good practices from a macro perspective.

5.2.2. Sub-degree Student Experience Questionnaire (SSEQ) for full-time
Higher Diploma at HKQF Level 4 and Trend Analysis by CLEAR

Given that the Higher Diploma is a “worthwhile standalone sub-degree qualification” preparing students for further studies and initial employment at the para-professional level, an additional exit survey at the University level entitled SSEQ is conducted with assistance by the CLEAR among all graduating students of full-time Higher Diploma programmes at HKQF Level 4 (Appendix 5-17). Findings of the SSEQ, with a trend analysis of longitudinal data, are channeled back to the programmes concerned, the CUSCS, and the Senate SPCEP for following through.

5.2.3. Committee on Re-approval of Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programmes (HKQF Levels 4-6)

A programme revalidation mechanism is well in place at the University level. All self-financed taught postgraduate (TPg) programmes approved by the Senate and SPCEPs pitched at HKQF Levels 4-6 will have a validity of six years. Re-approval has to be sought through the Committee on Re-approval of Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programmes (Appendix 5-18), without which the programmes may be put on probation or be directed by the Senate to cease admission. The SDPUs must provide the QA and financial indicators of the programme in the template Key Statistics for the Committee on Re-approval of Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programmes (Appendix 5-19) and also a self-reflection on the pertinent issues related to enhancing the quality of the programme.

Programmes recommended by the Committee on Re-approval of Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programmes for re-approval must submit a streamlined version of the updated programme proposals via the template Proposal for New Programme Recommended by the Committee on Re-approval of Sub-degree, Professional and Continuing Education Programmes (Appendix 5-20).

A flowchart illustrating the re-approval work cycle is in Appendix 5-21.

5.3. Revision of Programmes

It is necessary for the SDPUs to review their SPCEPs against the feedback from students, teachers, alumni, or other external sources. It is also necessary for the SDPUs to make regular changes in the curriculum of SPCEPs to maintain currency.

When initiating a revision of programmes, the SDPUs should list the details of their proposed revisions with rationales in the Proforma for Major/Minor Revisions for the formal submission of programme revisions (Appendix 5-22). Any changes in terms of programme title, reduction in programme hours, programme’s overall objectives, the core courses, or half or more of the elective courses are considered major revisions. The principles on the definitions of major and minor revisions are available in Appendix 5-22.

CUSCS programmes at HKQF Levels 4-6 must undergo the Faculty Consultation process when introducing major changes of curriculum for each programme or across a number of programmes (Appendix 5-23).

Same as the approval procedures for new programme proposals, all SPCEPs must have their programme revision proposals submitted to their respective governing boards for endorsement/approval before submitting the proposals for Senate SPCEP’s endorsement for approval by the Senate.

The flowcharts illustrating the procedures for programme revisions initiated by Faculties and the CUSCS are in Appendix 5-24 and Appendix 5-25 respectively.

5.4. Annual Reporting

For annual reporting to the Senate SPCEP, SDPUs must provide the class information, including key QA data, of their Category 27 programme(s) to the Non-CUSIS Class Information Database (CID)8.

A template for Collection of Non-CUSIS Class Information on Category 2 Self-Financed Programmes is in Appendix 5-26.

5.5. Phasing out of Programmes

The SDPUs must review their offerings of SPCEPs from time to time to determine their continuity and sustainability. If the demand due to technological development or societal changes has been completely satisfied, the SDPUs can consider initiating a phasing out of the SPCEPs. The proposed phasing out plan of the SPCEPs, as endorsed/approved by their respective governing boards, must be submitted to the Senate SPCEP for endorsement for approval by the Senate.

A flowchart illustrating the procedures for the phasing out of programmes is in Appendix 5-27.


6 If the programme title is “Certificate Programme in ABC (ABC 證書課程)”, the corresponding award title should be “Certificate in ABC (ABC 證書)”.

7 Category 2 programmes refer to self-financed SPCEPs leading to award titles comparable to the HKQF Levels 1-6, which are offered by Faculties, Departments, research institutes/ centres and extension offices, endorsed by the Senate SPCEP (replacing UExB with effect from August 1, 2017) and approved by the Senate.

8 A joint initiative developed by the Finance Office (FO), Information Technology Services Centre (ITSC), and the SPCEP Secretariat for better overseeing the quality of SPCEPs with reference to the Cost Allocation Guidelines (CAGs).