Students who did not get onto a course of their choice, did not get the results they expected or who are still undecided about what to do should act now. A first step for anyone interested in a higher diploma at one of the city's Institutes of Vocational Education (IVE) is to take the A-level results slip you received today and your Form Five HKCEE and head up to one of the two IVE admission centres which are open from today until Thursday. 'Along with their results, they can bring along any supporting evidence, such as references from teachers, to the admission centres,' said Leung Yam-shing, education adviser at the Vocational Training Council. He explained that aside from finding out about courses on offer, prospective students can attend an interview and be offered a place on a course immediately. They then have a few days to consider the offer and accept the place. There are about 3,000 places on 50 two-year higher diploma courses targeting A-level graduates. They are on offer across the nine IVE schools and at the Hong Kong Design Institute and the School of Business and Information Systems. Nine major disciplines are covered, including subjects in business, IT, construction, tourism, manufacturing, design and community services. The minimum requirement for entry to one of the courses is at least one A-level pass (E grade or above), or two AS-level passes and five passes at HKCEE including Chinese and English. Mr Leung said that one of the main advantages of graduating with a higher diploma was that employers valued the qualification. 'They like our graduates because they leave with the right skills required for a specific industry. Our graduates are also pragmatic in the sense that they know where they should be positioned when they do get their first job. They won't ask for a management role to begin with and are happy to accept trainee roles.' Another advantage, Mr Leung said, was that many higher diploma graduates were able to go on to study undergraduate degrees at university. 'Last year about 40 per cent of graduates went on to undergraduate studies. The good thing is that they don't have to start from the first year of an undergraduate degree course. Very often they start the course with direct entry to the second year.' One such student is Marco Fan Chi-hang. He has just completed his higher diploma in software engineering at IVE and is set to join the second year of a science degree at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He chose the IVE course because his A-level results were not as good as he expected and he wasn't able to go straight to university. 'The course I took links with degree courses offered by traditional universities here and I knew I could get onto a degree programme if I got satisfactory results,' Mr Fan said. He said he did not feel much anxiety in making the move up to a degree programme because the higher diploma had prepared him well for the move. Reflecting on his A-level results, he said that now that two years had passed he realised they were not the be-all and end-all of success. 'It is not the end of the world if you fail. A-levels are one way to get into university but they are not the only way.' Mr Leung said that higher diploma graduates could also opt to take top-up degree programmes offered by overseas universities in Hong Kong. This way students were often able to receive a full honours degree within 16 months of graduating from IVE. Mr Leung advised prospective students to think about what they wanted to do with the rest of their lives when choosing a course, not just about what they wanted to do over the next two years. 'They should listen to the advice they get from teachers and parents, but ultimately they need to make their own decision,' he said. Higher diploma courses at IVE cost up to HK$40,600 per year. Many students are eligible to receive government grants. Getting there The IVE Central Admission Centres are open from today until July 2. Venues 1) IVE (Morrison Hill), 6 Oi Kwan Road, Wan Chai 2) IVE (Haking Wong), 702 Lai Chi Kok Road, Cheung Sha Wan Admissions office 2897 6111 Hotline 2836 1888 Higher Diploma website www.vtc.edu.hk/hd Admissions website www.vtc.edu.hk/admission '