A college with only 19 first-year enrolments for 300 places in its sub-degree programmes says it is unfair to judge the programmes solely on the numbers.
Hong Kong Buddhist College also said its resources have not been wasted because they can be allocated to other courses.
The Lai Chi Kok institution was responding to Education Bureau figures which showed several schools offering diploma and other sub-degree courses had enrolments as low as zero.
"It's unfair to judge us simply by the number of students we have in these programmes," college president Professor Edwin Wong King-por said.
He added that the college had not invested much to promote the programmes which started in 2012, so it would take time for enrolments to build.
The college had not allocated resources for the four programmes based on the 300-place capacity, Wong said, meaning money had not been wasted.
He said the college has other non-accredited full-time programmes in fields such as design and Buddhism, which together with part-time courses had attracted almost 1,280 students and generated important income.
Pui Ching Academy in Yau Ma Tei, which offered 150 sub-degree places this year but got only three students, had not replied last night to a request for comment.
People involved in the education sector said Pui Ching specialises in overseas top-up degree programmes, many of which are done in co-operation with universities in Taiwan. Its sub-degree courses started in 2012. The institution also runs partnership programmes with the government in youth career training and secondary education classes.
Hong Kong Adventist College in Sai Kung had no takers for the 40 places in its sub-degree programmes, while 44 sub-degree students enrolled by Yew Chung Community College in Sham Shui Po left 376 empty places.
Neither institution could be reached for comment.
Higher-education experts said the competition in the self-financed sub-degree and undergraduate market was heated.