Vocational courses top the list of university programmes popular with Form Seven students who recently obtained their A-level examination results. Accounting, social work, nursing and business administration are among the students' most-preferred choices, or choices made in the Band A category of applications made under the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (Jupas). Form Seven students were asked to pick and rank in order of preference 25 programmes late last year. They could make changes to the order in June and within two days after the release of the A-Level results early this month. Nursing emerged as the second hottest choice at Polytechnic University and Chinese University, after accounting and integrated business administration respectively. It attracted 815 applications for 127 places at PolyU, and 463 applications for 138 places at CUHK. It ranked fifth in the top choices at the University of Hong Kong. Sars was a catalyst in heightening demand for nursing degree places, said Diana Lee Tze-fan, programme co-ordinator at CUHK's Nethersole School of Nursing. The number of applications in the Band A category for the CUHK programme had risen by one-third over last year. 'The image of the profession has improved and students have also realised the important contribution it has for the community,' she said. But Thomas Wong Kwok-shing, head of PolyU's School of Nursing, attributed the strong interest to plentiful jobs and students' pragmatic approach. 'It has to do with parental and peer influences ... programmes such as medicine and nursing that offered a clear career path,' he said. Business administration - the top choice at Lingnan University and the University of Science and Technology - ranked second at HKU, where it attracted 530 applications, down from last year's 938. The top choice at HKU is the bachelor of arts programme. Another professional discipline, social work, is the top choice at City University and Baptist University, with 1,093 applications for 50 places at CityU and 672 applications for 43 places at HKBU. It also ranked fourth in terms of popular choices at PolyU. The programme was open to students with either arts or science background, Professor Wong said. Peter Chiu Wing-tak, chairman of the Hong Kong Association of Careers Masters and Guidance Masters, said local students had always put job prospects before personal interests in selecting courses.