The number of university places should be increased to cope with demand from future associate degree graduates, the head of a higher education review body said this week. Warning of a coming rise in sub-degree students wanting to move into full degree courses, Lord Sutherland, vice-chancellor of the University of Edinburgh and chair of the review body under the University Grants Committee, said care had to be taken to preserve standards. '[The number of places] would depend on the extent of expansion in the associate degree programmes, but we must make sure that student quality will not be compromised,' he said. The number of the sub-degree places has risen to 5,000 this year from about 3,000 last year. Universities which also run associate degree programmes do not guarantee places for future graduates of the two- to three-year programmes, but have said they can move on to their overseas partner institutions. Edwin Wong King-por, a director of the Federation for Continuing Education in Tertiary Institutions, which comprises all 11 associate degree course providers, expected demand to grow as scepticism faded about future graduates' employment prospects. 'There are about 25,000 sixth-formers each year but only 14,000 first-year degree places available. Associate degree programmes provide an alternative route for those who fail to get into university,' Mr Wong said. Lord Sutherland added that Hong Kong should work towards producing more university graduates in response to the emergence of a knowledge-based economy. His group has held meetings with university vice-chancellors and council chairmen since May, and is due to complete its review by the middle of next year. Its wide-ranging review also includes a study of whether associate degree course providers should be monitored by the UGC.