Education and manpower chiefs have proposed a system of grading academic qualifications that they hope will make it easier for employers to know what they are getting in an applicant. The eight-tiered system would also allow students to target courses that best suit their career path as the number of qualifications available in the territory proliferates, officials say. A government study outlines the system which covers qualifications ranging from Form Three to doctorates. At present, many awards with the same title are completely different, causing problems for potential employers. A qualification framework register will be formed so the public can inquire about the details of all qualifications. But professional bodies and privately funded institutions could choose to remain outside the qualification framework as it would be voluntary. All qualifications would be subject to a quality assurance mechanism, which would be administered by the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation, before they could be placed in the register. The bureau said the proposals were an important step in upgrading human capital. 'With clear progression pathways in the qualifications framework, people can draw up their own road maps to upgrade their skills and pursue lifelong learning,' it said. An Education and Manpower Bureau spokesman added that the framework would allow employers to recognise workers' qualifications. 'It will also encourage accredited training providers to provide more quality courses that meet society and industry needs,' he said. But Cheung Man-kwong, president of the Professional Teachers' Union, said: 'What is more important is whether there are enough opportunities around to enable those with low qualifications to attain higher ones,' he said. The general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions, Lee Cheuk-yan, was worried the qualifications framework could lower morale among workers. 'Some employers may use it to demote or axe workers who may have a wealth of experience but have difficulties in coping with exams,' he said.