For the more than 100,000 secondary school students, who sat for the HKCEE exams, today will be marked by nail-biting moments as they find out the results that will determine their futures. But those who don't make the grades for university entry need not despair. Rather, they should embrace the gamut of alternatives thanks to the government's efforts to expand post-secondary education options. 'Form Five school leavers should take advantage of the benefits of further education, particularly since there are now multiple pathways open to them,' says Leung Yam-shing, education adviser at the Vocational Training Council. Now, more than ever, a post-secondary qualification is a necessity, as students will find themselves having to compete in an increasingly competitive knowledge-based economy, explains Dr Victor Lee, director of the Chinese University's school of continuing and professional studies. The school has seen its annual pool of HKCEE applicants grow by a steady 2 to 5 per cent in the past five years, as students are increasingly keen to pursue further studies. Translation, Chinese journalism, business administration and animation are among some of the most desirable three-year, full-time higher diploma programmes offered. Applicants are required to have a minimum of five passes in the HKCEE subjects, including English and Chinese, while course fees are about HK$40,000 per year. The school's programmes are a combination of academic rigour and vocational training, allowing graduates the flexibility of entering the workforce or pursuing further studies, Lee explains. Half of the higher diploma graduates continue further studies for their bachelor's degree immediately following graduation, while the remaining students decide to work. 'The desire to study in students is very strong, and the higher diploma is a currency that can be used not just in Hong Kong, but everywhere,' Lee says. The school has agreements with more than 60 universities worldwide to place higher diploma graduates into bachelor's degree programmes. At the Vocational Training Council, where subjects such as childcare education, hotel management and tourism, and applied science are among the most popular, some 60 per cent of graduates have obtained their bachelor's degree within five years of obtaining their higher diploma. The school's construction department has, in recent years, seen the doubling of applicants due to the wide range of continuing infrastructure projects, worth HK$160 billion, in the city, according to Joseph Lee Hung-kwong, who heads the department at the Institute of Vocational Education. Form Five students can secure a place at the Institute of Vocational Education and the Hong Kong Design Institute through the direct offer scheme. The system allows HKCEE students, with results in hand, to head to any of the campuses to secure offers from the programme of their choice today and tomorrow. Leung urges students to do research on programmes offered, and have backup plans just in case their first option doesn't work out.