Call for more undergraduate places
The government is being pressured to provide more support for the rising number of school leavers going for sub-degree programmes.
Last month the Legislative Council passed a non-binding motion urging the government to increase the number of undergraduate places. The number of first year places is fixed at 14,500, while up to 35,000 Form Seven students sat the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination.
Each year, thousands of sub-degree students also seek to enter university by either retaking the exam or going through the non-Jupas (Joint University Programmes Admissions System) scheme on the strength of their academic results in associate degrees or higher diplomas.
Democratic Party legislator Cheung Man-kwong, who represents the education constituency, criticised the government for ignoring demands for more undergraduate places. He said more places should be allowed to accommodate an increasing number of sub-degree students - up from 10,000 in 2000 to more than 30,000 now. There was also a need to nurture talent to help boost the economy.
Community college heads echoed the importance of providing additional degree places.
'Students will be even more motivated and work even harder if they know that they can move on to degree programmes upon completion of their studies,' said Hong Kong Community College director Simon Leung Tak-wing.
'Many students aspire to go to university after finishing sub-degree programmes. And some have good academic results. The government has the responsibility to accommodate them.'
For the coming academic year, 967 second year or so-called senior places at government-funded institutions are on offer for sub-degree graduates with favourable grade point averages, up from 840. The number will rise to about 1,900 next year.
But educators such as Dr Leung believe this does not meet the huge demand. Moving to a new campus in Hung Hom Bay next month, his college has an annual intake of about 2,400 students. Dr Leung said at least half of the sub-degree graduates should be provided with places, either government funded or self-financed. He suggested that a government subsidy be provided to institutions running self-financed top-up degree courses either on their own or in collaboration with overseas universities.
'Students won't need to do much part-time work if there is subsidy.'
Simon Wong Chi-hon, dean of Hong Kong Baptist University's School of Continuing Education, supported the idea of a government subsidy.
'The AD [associate degree] sector has developed rapidly in the past few years. It provides an alternative path to students who do not thrive in an examination-oriented system. Many of our AD graduates who went on to degree studies at Baptist University were given scholarships or were on the dean's list.'
The university's self-financed top-up programmes in psychology and sports leadership were popular choices, but were nonetheless costly for some, said Dr Wong. The two-year honour's degree in psychology costs HK$126,000 compared with the annual tuition of HK$42,100 for government-funded programmes. The one-year full-time top-up programmes in business offered by overseas universities through the Chinese University of Hong Kong's School of Continuing and Professional Studies cost about HK$90,000, while the part-time, 16-month top-up programme in management and business offered by the University of Glamorgan at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology's College of Lifelong Learning costs HK$69,000.
At Hong Kong Community College and HKU Space Community College, 70 per cent of graduates move on to degree studies, but often in top-up programmes that lead to local or overseas awards.
HKU Space Community College principal Cheng Kin-fai, said a government subsidy could be provided for places at the private Shue Yan University, since about half of the 20,000 sub-degree graduates each year wanted to - and could - move on to degree studies.
'The ability range of AD students is very wide. Some may not have done well in the A-level Examination, but exams don't necessarily reflect a student's ability. As a result of their learning process, associate degree students are well prepared for university study,' he said.