Variety of courses an incentive to study
An increasing number of people are embracing the concept of lifelong learning to improve their career prospects
The professional and continuing education sector has flourished in recent years, as an increasing number of Hong Kong people embrace the concept of lifelong learning.
A variety of diplomas and certificates at postgraduate and sub-degree levels are on offer at all local tertiary institutions, giving people opportunities to upgrade their academic qualifications and improve their career prospects. Numerous short courses are also available for interest and self-enrichment.
In 2002/2003, HKU SPACE (School of Professional and Continuing Education, the University of Hong Kong) offered 25 postgraduate diplomas and certificates, 167 diplomas and certificates at sub-degree level, and 578 short courses.
John Cribbin, HKU SPACE secretary and registrar, says most of the postgraduate diplomas and certificates offer opportunities for 'articulation and progression' to those with professional and work experience.
'Most postgraduate diplomas and certificates are structured as part of a master's programme, or they are articulated into the master's programme,' he says. 'The postgraduate certificate normally covers the first half of the taught part of the master's course, and the postgraduate diploma is the completion of the taught element of the course, which is usually half or two-thirds of the master's programme.'
There are also stand-alone postgraduate diplomas and certificates for working people to develop their professional competence or earn a higher qualification in a specific area.
HKU SPACE has 10 academic divisions offering postgraduate diplomas and certificates in various disciplines, including accounting, arts and humanities, Chinese medicine, finance, health and applied science, information technology, management studies, marketing, law and social science, urban studies and education.
Some of the courses are included in the Continuing Education Fund reimbursable course list.
Diplomas and certificates at sub-degree level give secondary school leavers further avenues for pursuing higher education.
'Diplomas and certificates aim to bring back into learning people who have not had a formal qualification. We give them an opportunity to study. If they are successful, they can proceed to more formal, higher levels of education,' Mr Cribbin says.
He says some diplomas and certificates are equivalent to the first year of university. The part-time diploma in accounting and management studies qualifies students to apply for second-year entry in the three-year part-time bachelor degree programme in accounting or management studies.
Form Five graduates with one to two years' work experience and basic computer literacy are eligible to take the diploma and certificates programmes.
Helen Wong, assistant director of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's College of Lifelong Learning (CL3), says certificates offered at CL3 are designed on a modular basis and grouped into various disciplines under the diploma programmes.
For example, the Advanced Diploma in Creative Communication Design or the Diploma in Creative Communication Design can be completed by taking four or two certificate courses under the respective design discipline.
Apart from diplomas and certificates, non-award bearing short courses are also popular. Entry is open, and the duration is short (usually fewer than 100 hours). Hundreds of short courses are offered each year by local tertiary institutions.
Short courses at Hong Kong Baptist University's School of Continuing Education are structured as part of a certificate, says Cindy Cheung, head of general and professional studies.
Ms Cheung says there is no entry requirement for the short courses, which attract people from all walks of life.