Education chief to resolve status of sub-degrees

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 October, 2007, 12:00am

Students may get credit-point system

The education chief pledged yesterday to look at ways, including a new credit-point system, to give associate degrees greater academic recognition by the end of the year.

Denying a lawmaker's claim that they were nothing more than 'foam education', Secretary for Education Michael Suen Ming-yeung told a Legislative Council education panel meeting the value of associate degrees needed to be clearly defined.

'The problem is obvious simply by looking at the figures. There are tens of thousands of associate degree graduates but only a few thousand university places. However, it takes time to solve the problem,' Mr Suen told lawmakers.

He said he would address the problems by discussing them with stakeholders over the next three months, but urged lawmakers to be patient.

'The main thing is to accredit students' knowledge by establishing a credit-point system,' Mr Suen said.

With such a system in place, associate degree graduates could choose to work for a few years or pursue studies by other routes, such as the Open University of Hong Kong, as part of a solution to ease the bottleneck at universities.

Mr Suen said the government should clearly define where associate degree holders stood in the qualifications framework, in order for graduates to be better recognised by the government and employers.

There are about 3,000 places for sub-degree graduates in the second year of government-funded degree programmes, while there are 25,000 to 30,000 graduates from associate degree and higher diploma courses each year.

Democrat Cheung Man-kwong, who represents the education sector, described the problems surrounding associate degrees as a 'ticking education time bomb' and said the future remained uncertain for many young associate degree holders.

Confederation of Trade Unions legislator Lee Cheuk-yan described associate degrees as 'foam education', because the paths to further studies they seemed to offer tended to vanish like foam.

Mr Suen rejected this criticism.

'I don't agree with that. There are different pathways for these graduates. We just need to clearly define the value of associate degrees,' he said.

But he did not commit to providing more government-subsidised university places for associate degree holders.

Fung Wai-wah, the convenor of an alliance concerned with sub-degree education, welcomed the credit-point idea.

'Some associate degrees do run on a credit-point system, but there is no standardised mechanism, as different universities waive different credit points on an individual basis,' he said.

Associate degrees were established in 2001 to meet former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa's plan to provide higher education opportunities for 60 per cent of 18- to 20-year-olds.

Study group

Number of sub-degree graduates, including associate degree and higher diploma graduates, for the 2006/07 academic year ranges from 25,000 to: 30,000