It is 10 years since Charles Wong Kit-hung helped to found the School of Continuing and Professional Education (SCOPE) at the City University of Hong Kong, a decade in which the director has seen people become increasingly accustomed to the need to top up their learning level. Rapid advances in technology as well as changes in society and legal codes means that training often becomes dated soon after a student completes a course. 'If you have a computer degree from five years ago, your knowledge is 10 years old,' Mr Wong said. As a result, an increasing number of people are coming back to the classroom to keep up with changing trends. To keep up with this demand, SCOPE yesterday opened its fourth centre, its first on Hong Kong Island, at Admiralty. The other three are in Kowloon Tong. The new centre will have 16 classrooms, including five rooms for small group discussions. In line with current trends for MBA and executive programmes, three rooms will be equipped with computers, Mr Wong said. Students will also be able to bring their own computers to class. Among changes he has witnessed over the past decade, Mr Wong said, was 'credential inflation'. An MBA, for example, used to be thought to give job applicants an edge. Now it has become a minimum requirement for certain positions. 'Ten years ago when higher diplomas were introduced, the conclusion I drew was that more education creates more demand. If you have a higher diploma, you had better upgrade to a Bachelor's degree. If you have a Bachelor's, you will need to get a Master's,' Mr Wong said. Exacerbating the problem for local graduates was the increasing availability of talent with overseas qualifications and a growing number of highly qualified mainlanders beginning to appear in Hong Kong. 'It's now easier to get good people from North America than it was 10 years ago,' Mr Wong said. SCOPE offers degree programmes, continuing education diploma and certificate courses, professional courses, general courses and corporate programmes. Courses include such diverse disciplines as facilities management, primary education, housing studies, electronic business and professional communication. Half of the school's 32 degree programmes are offered in conjunction with CityU's own faculties, the other half in conjunction with overseas institutions. Many are top-up or bridging programmes. Upon completion of the Hong Kong component, students often head to Britain or other countries to finish their degree at the partner's home campus. Meanwhile, SCOPE keeps a close eye on requirements in the job market. 'We work with different trade and professional bodies to make sure the courses we offer are targeted at specific groups,' Mr Wong said. As the third-largest provider of continuing and professional education programmes in Hong Kong, SCOPE offers many students a second chance. 'We see people who come up the hard way,' Mr Wong said. 'Formal education in Hong Kong is very inflexible. Some people did not do well in secondary school, but they are still capable of doing well at degree and graduate level,' he said. SCOPE at a glance Established: 1991. Enrolment: 20,000 on short courses; 3,000 on degree programmes. Programmes: degrees, continuing education diploma and certificate courses, professional and general courses, exam preparation and corporate courses. Learning mode: mainly part-time in a traditional classroom setting. Medium of instruction: mostly in English. Minimum entry requirements: varies. Major learning centres: three in Kowloon Tong; one in Admiralty.