Educators call for more cheap degree places
Limited number of government-funded places means the door is closed to thousands who reach the minimum admission requirements
Educators have called for the creation of more subsidised degree places as 82,350 pupils prepare to collect their Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) exam results next week.
The limited number of government-funded degree places means the door is closed to thousands who reach the minimum university admission requirements of Level 3 in Chinese and English, and Level 2 in mathematics and liberal studies.
Last year, 36.7 per cent of the HKDSE candidates met the threshold for a publicly funded degree place but only 18 per cent received one due to the government cap of 15,000 on publicly funded first-year degree places.
More young people aspire to further their study after finishing school. Last September an estimated 34,000 pupils enrolled in associate degree and higher diploma programmes, compared with 22,881 in 2011-12.
The president of private university Centennial College, Professor John Malpas, supports the provision of more university places saying it is needed to maintain Hong Kong's competitiveness in a globalised world.
"We live in a knowledge society - if you can take the opportunity to get post-secondary education, it's a valuable thing to do."
University education also provides a valuable experience for local youths to grow, learn to be independent and work with other people, he says.
"Nowadays, the kinds of jobs people do can be different throughout their lifetime; they have to be communicative, tolerant, caring, a global citizen and able to work within your society."
Uncertainty about their chances of entering university has created stress among HKDSE candidates, says Phoebe See Man-yan, principal programme secretary of the Chinese YMCA Kwun Tong Centre.
"Since the examination was only introduced last year, they are not sure what results are needed for admissions into certain programmes or universities. There is a sense of uncertainty. We have reminded them to have back-up plans and discuss options with parents and teachers. It is important for them to talk openly at an early stage and see what preparations are needed."
The exam was taken by 71,222 Form Six students and 11,128 private candidates this year.
More alternative study paths are now available, ranging from vocational training to higher diploma courses and distance learning with private universities that charge up to HK$100,000 a year. The demand is set to outstrip the supply of places.
In the last academic year, there were 140 associate degree and 175 higher diploma programmes on offer. There were also 97 self-financed degree courses run by institutions such as universities' further-education arms, and 120 top-up degree courses offered mostly by overseas institutions.
"School population will go up again after 2016," says Professor Chung Yue-ping from Chinese University's Department of Educational Administration and Policy. Graduates with a higher level of education contribute to job creation, Chung says.
"If a society has the resources, it is a right choice to invest in human capital. It's the best strategy to prepare for future economic development, as South Korea, for example, shows."