Following the money: Hong Kong self-financing degrees gain more students with new education subsidy
Meanwhile, programmes like associate degrees are losing favour as odds of using them to gain university admission remain low
High-cost, self-financing degree courses are gaining popularity among Hong Kong students who cannot secure a seat at a public university this year following the government’s new education subsidy, with more shunning controversial sub-degree programmes.
Secondary school graduates said Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s proposed subsidy last week had turned them away, inspiring many to explore self-financing undergraduate courses instead.
Under the proposal, students meeting basic requirements to enrol at local universities but unable to secure a place due to limited supply will be given an annual subsidy of HK$30,000 to pursue self-financing undergraduate programmes.
Secondary school graduate Flora Ng said she originally considered pursuing an associate degree at City University. However, she learned the chances of landing a spot at a public university’s degree programme were slim.
“Now it’s my last choice,” she said, this after learning she scored 15 points for her best five Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) examination subjects.
The Hong Kong DSE exam is a subject-based qualification test for secondary pupils seeking admission to university in the city.
Students who do not fare well on the DSE could use sub-degree programmes like associate degree courses to gain admission to public universities. But the lack of a guarantee has raised questions about whether such a strategy is worthwhile.
“Someone enlightened me that there is only a one in 10 chance of [getting into the third year of degree programmes offered by the public universities] with an associate degree, so it will be a lot of competition and very tiring,” Ng said.
She has now applied for at least two self-financing degree programmes: Open University and the Technological and Higher Education Institute.
She added that the government subsidy had contributed to her decision.
While the scheme is still subject to approval by the Legislative Council’s finance committee, it is widely expected to pass with support from various political parties and lawmakers.
Professor Chan Lung-sang, principal of HKU SPACE Community College, which offers sub-degree courses, hit out at the government for not including them in the subsidy plan.
Chan said he expected around 2,500 students to be admitted this year – about 700 fewer than the number the college anticipated receiving before the subsidy was proposed.
“I’m worried [some of our] programmes will be scrapped,” he added.
Additional reporting by Jessica Li