Secondary school graduates who have lost out on a university place have began searching for study alternatives such as undertaking sub-degree programmes and studying abroad. Nearly half of the 33,826 students who applied for university were rejected, according to the Joint University Programmes Admissions System. The rejection rate rose by 1.7 per cent compared with last year, to 49.5 per cent. The eight tertiary institutions running degree courses have 525 fewer places than last year. Some 11,748 students received degree offers and 5,327 received offers for associate degree or higher diploma programmes. The rest were left looking for alternatives at community colleges and places like the Institute of Vocational Training. Chui Yat-hung, director of Hok Yau Club's Student Guidance Centre, said the centre had received about 100 calls from students inquiring about sub-degree programmes. 'Some of these students are deciding whether they want to repeat one year or apply for a degree programme at private institutions, such as Chu Hai College and Shue Yan College,' he said. 'If they want to continue their studies, they can definitely move on because there are many choices.' Mr Chui added that there were many more sub-degree programmes available for students this year than there were last year. But the sentiment among students was that they would want to top up these studies by completing a bachelor's degree anyway to improve their chances of landing a good job, he said. 'The problem with associate degrees and technical training diplomas is that they are not as practical as before. The areas of studies are usually broader and are not as specialised as they used to be,' Mr Chui said. At the University of Hong Kong, the bachelor of science programme in actuarial science was among the most competitive because it accepted students with the best grades among all the other applicants. That was followed by the university's medicine and surgery, civil engineering, business administration, and government and laws degrees. At Chinese University, students with the best grades were those accepted to degrees in insurance, financial and actuarial analysis; quantitative finance; pharmacy; medical studies; and mathematics.