STUDENTS completing fewer than two-thirds of the subjects or credits of an overseas distance learning degree course will not be recognised by the Hongkong Government, it has recently been revealed. The news has sparked fears among those taking such courses. Distance learning is popular and is a main source of teacher supply in Hongkong. Fifty students who are expected to graduate this summer from a Bachelor of Education programme jointly offered by Deakin University in Australia and the Chinese University's Department of Extramural Studies will be among those affected. They were allowed exemption for some units and admitted to the final year of the four-year course due to their three-year teaching training qualifications. The students, who did not know of such a ruling when they joined the programme, are planning to protest and to ask that the ''unreasonable rule'' be dropped. According to the Civil Service Branch, overseas qualifications gained off-campus are recognised by the Government for appointment purposes subject to a review of the policy last December. However, it was stated in a letter by the branch in February to a representative of Deakin University that ''for a three-year degree course, the candidate must have completed at least two-thirds of the subjects or credits required by the course''. Exemption is given to those holding a diploma from a local registered post-secondary college, in addition to the distance learning degree. The criterion is a big surprise to many educationalists and students as many of them were not aware of such a rule. Even the chairman of the Education Commission, Professor Rosie Young Tse-tse, when approached by the students and asked about the rule, admitted she had never heard about it. Primary school principal Lau Ming-ki, who is taking the programme, said: ''It is totally unfair; credit transfer is a very common practice in academic studies. Why does the Government want the two-thirds rule, which is an unreasonable criterion? ''The university studies each case seriously before accepting a student and exempting units. So we don't think we should be discriminated against.'' Mr Lau said similar distance learning courses were popular in Hongkong because teacher training degree programmes were non-existent in the four Colleges of Education. He feared many students would be affected. The faculty dean and students of the university have approached various government bodies including the Hongkong Council for Academic Accreditation (HKCAA) and the Civil Service Branch to express their discontent. The HKCAA has shown its support to the students but the Civil Service Branch is sticking to its policy.