Degrees obtained in mainland universities are not fully recognised in Hong Kong despite a pilot programme to encourage students to study across the border, education officials admitted yesterday.
Kevin Yeung Yun-hung, undersecretary for education, said that unlike local degrees, certificates obtained through the Scheme for Admission of Hong Kong Students to Mainland Higher Education Institutions require additional verification before they are recognised for government job applications.
As part of the process, he told the Legislative Council's education panel, students had to have their degrees checked by the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications.
Yeung said it was difficult to approve all of the qualifications at one time because the scheme covered a wide variety of subjects.
Some 970 students were admitted to one of 63 mainland universities this year, the first enrolments since the announcement of the scheme last year during the visit of Vice-Premier Li Keqiang . Applicants do not have to take any entrance exams on the mainland.
The scheme has been expanded for the next intake to 70 universities.
Legislators said, however, that the government had the responsibility of ensuring students had a fair chance of success after joining the scheme.
Otherwise it would be "as if students are lured into a trap" to get a substandard degree, legislator Leung Yiu-chung said.
The Education Bureau said nearly 3,500 offers were made to about 4,200 applicants in the first intake, although only some 970 accepted.
Legislator Dr Kenneth Chan Ka-lok said the scheme appeared to have become a back-up degree for less competitive students, undermining the original aim of better integration between the two places.
Yeung said the scheme was aimed only at giving better access to mainland education and would be reviewed in a few years.
While the minimum university entrance requirement is a 3-3-2-2 grading in the four Hong Kong Diploma for Secondary Education subjects - Chinese, English, mathematics and liberal studies - the requirement for some mainland institutions under the latest scheme is 2-2-1-1.
HKDSE grades are divided into seven levels with the top grades being 5* and 5**, but Level 2 is widely considered a pass.