Sub-degree programmes offer diverse rewards
A growing number of sub-degree programmes leading to associate degrees or professional or higher diplomas are being offered in Hong Kong.
After completion, students can usually choose to look for jobs or continue their studies - either in Hong Kong or abroad.
Many professional diplomas are recognised by local and overseas bodies and may lead to an exemption from some related examinations.
Under plans announced last year, the number of second- and third-year places at Hong Kong's tertiary institutions will be increased in 2005, providing an attractive path forward for students who successfully complete a sub-degree programme.
Another path is to further your studies abroad. The College of International Education at Hong Kong Baptist University has negotiated a host of articulation agreements with universities in the United States, Britain, Canada and Australia, and more are on the way.
This means students completing its associate degree programmes can transfer to overseas universities.
Before enrolling in the college's associate programmes, however, Form Five school leavers must first complete a one- or two-year Associate Degree foundation course.
'The exact duration depends on their HKCEE results,' a spokesman for the college says.
'Sub-degree programmes offer students who don't perform well in examinations an alternate route,' says Cheng Kin-fai, principal of HKU SPACE Community College.
'If they come to us, we use continuing assessment, which accounts for 50 to 70 per cent of their grade. We don't assess students solely on exams.'
But this should not be misinterpreted as a lowering of standards. Students in these programmes are well-prepared to further their studies. 'Seventy per cent of our first [associates] were accepted by universities both local and overseas. The rest of them got jobs.'
HKU SPACE, which stands for the Uni-versity of Hong Kong School of Professional and Continuing Education, is the oldest major provider of continuing and professional education in Hong Kong.
Established in 1956, it set up the HKU SPACE Community College in 2000 in response to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa's call to increase the ratio of young people enrolled in post-secondary programmes to 60 per cent.
In the coming academic year, 18 institutions will offer self-financing post-secondary programmes. There will be 71 Associate Degree courses and 34 Higher Diploma courses.
Generally speaking, Associate degrees follow the United States model whereas higher diplomas adopt the British standard.
Associate degrees put more emphasis on general education, with higher diplomas having a more vocational or practical orientation.
Associate degrees run two to three years, while higher diplomas last three years.
While minimum entry requirements vary, Form Five school leavers would generally be required to complete a one-year pre-associate programme before being accepted into an associate programme.
For higher diplomas, Form Five students would usually commence with year one of the three-year programme. Form Seven school leavers would enter at the second year.
Most of the University Grants Committee-funded tertiary institutions have sub-degree programmes which are generally offered on a self-financing basis.
The Division of Continuing Professional Education at the Hong Kong Institute of Education, for example, offers an Associate of Science and two Associates of Arts programmes.
Both types require two years of full-time study. Students with five HKCEE passes, including Chinese and English, can apply.
Otherwise, they should complete a pre-associate programme. It generally takes one year to complete, but some courses can be waived depending on an applicant's HKCEE results.