HKDSE - Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education

Thousands of Hong Kong students flock to grab last VTC diploma or degree places after receiving DSE results

Those whose grades were not good enough to get them a place at a publically-funded university braved on-the-spot interviews in the hope of getting a spot at one of 10 vocational schools

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 8:31am
UPDATED : Thursday, 12 July, 2018, 8:31am

About 20,000 Hong Kong students flocked to 10 schools run by Hong Kong’s largest vocational education provider on Wednesday to seek a place, after learning that their exam grades were not good enough to get them into a publicly-funded university.

Gripping their Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) results sheets, the youngsters – several who came with their parents – braved on-the-spot interviews when applying for diploma or privately-funded degree programmes offered by the Vocational Training Council.

But VTC deputy executive director Leung Yam-shing said there was no guarantee how many would be successful.

The council had 17,000 vacancies across all programmes but more than half had already been allocated as part of conditional offers made to students.

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“When demand for our courses peaked in 2015, we only had 1,000 places left to offer to these walk-in students. But competition has been less heated in recent years,” Leung acknowledged.

The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority announced on Tuesday that 21,264 of 50,447 full-day school candidates qualified for a limited number of places in publicly-funded degree programmes.

This means that at least 30,000 would be looking for alternative forms of higher education, such as diplomas, sub-degrees and privately-funded degrees programmes.

But the government has faced an uphill battle to change the mindset that vocational training and competency-based programmes are inferior to academic ones.

A Hong Kong think tank’s survey of over 2,000 parents and students, released last September, found that four in five respondents did not recognise vocational education and training as a professional qualification.

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Tsang Wai-kwan bucked this trend somewhat when he chose a degree in food safety by the VTC’s Technological and Higher Education Institute, over a sub-degree in science by an affiliate unit of Hong Kong University, HKU Space.

“A degree will benefit me more than an associate degree in terms of job seeking and further studies,” Tsang said.

The 18-year-old, who suffers from muscular atrophy, was also swayed by the non-means tested subsidy of up to HK$30,800 a year, as part of a scheme announced last year by Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s to help youngsters afford private, or self-financing, programmes.

The food safety programme could cost him HK$96,360 a year depending on the number of courses he takes.

He added he would love to be a lab researcher in future because he was interested in biology and chemistry.

But Qurrat-ul-ain Faizan had to settle for an associate degree in English literature at an affiliate unit of the University of Hong Kong, HKU Space, despite previously considering it inferior to bachelor’s programmes.

The 17-year-old Pakistani girl, born and raised in Hong Kong, said: “I will consider going to university after graduation because I want to get a proper degree in order to become a teacher.”

She added that university qualifications were necessary because “there might be a lot of competition”, and as a non-Chinese person, “if we have a better degree, that is more impressive”.

Gillian Li chose an associate degree in nursing at HKU Space. “I will work hard to get into university,” the 18-year-old said.

“A common value in our society is that you have to get a university degree to succeed,” she said.

Chan Kam-ying, 49, a housewife whose 18-year-old daughter applied for a higher diploma in visual arts at a VTC college, said society could help change mindsets by not relying solely on certificates to judge young people.

“What matters is their capability, instead of their diplomas,” Chan said.