Plan to create education hub like Australia has pitfalls Competition among sub-degree graduates for degree places is expected to intensify following the decision to open up the sub-degree sector to non-locals. Institutions can offer up to 10 per cent of their places to non-local students, including those from the mainland, Taiwan and Macau, the Executive Council has decided in a bid to turn Hong Kong into an education hub. Non-local students can take up further studies here after finishing sub-degree programmes. From September, part-time taught postgraduate programmes will also be open to non-local students, while the ceiling on non-local student intake at degree level will be raised to 10 per cent from the current 8 per cent. Professor Richard Ho Man-wui, president of the Chinese University of Hong Kong-Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Community College, which is due to open in September with an initial intake of 2,000, admitted it could cut sub-degree graduates' chances of being offered second-year places, but that was the cost of internationalisation. 'There needs to be a large number of international students here if Hong Kong wants to be an education hub like Australia,' he said. 'A small number of students may not be given second year places at universities because of increased competition but that is an issue faced by the whole world. Competition can lead to improved standards.' The University Grants Committee has allocated 840 second year places annually for 2005-2008 to accommodate the large number of sub-degree graduates. But the students' chances of moving on to degree studies remain slim, as more than 20,000 enrolled in the first year last September alone. A senior lecturer in applied social studies at the City University Community College, Fung Wai-wah, said: 'Most sub-degree students want to enter university. The sector has expanded very rapidly in the past few years. Now should be the time for institutions to consolidate their experience rather than opening up new markets.' Professor Ho said the strict quota system could limit the number of non-local students recruited: 'The quota may be filled more easily if it was imposed college wide rather than programme specific. We would also be able to attract more talent if more flexibility was allowed.' Jennifer Ng, principal of the CityU college said local students could benefit from cross-cultural exchanges but accommodation needed to be resolved.