Public universities’ associate degree courses are sill the choice for many students who miss out on places on public degree courses, despite their weaker reputation and higher fees, and also despite a new government subsidy meant to help those students into degrees at private institutions.
Students said the public schools’ better reputation and higher quality made them preferable to private institutions.
Secondary school leavers found out on Monday whether they had got one of about 15,000 places on government-subsidised bachelor’s degree courses at one of the eight public universities. But with 20,800 pupils hitting the basic entry requirements for those courses in the Diploma of Secondary Education exam, many eligible entrants were likely to still miss out.
To ease the effects of that disparity, the government last month announced an annual subsidy of HK$30,000 for pupils who get those basic entry requirements but end up taking full-time undergraduate programmes at select non-government-subsidised institutions.
But some eligible students still opted for associate degrees – two-year, sub-degree programmes with an academic focus – despite no subsidy and no guarantee of being able to switch to an undergraduate degree afterwards.
Eric Lai got the exam results necessary for a public university place, but was not offered one. He got an offer for a self-financed course at Hang Sang Management College, which comes under a different government subsidy scheme for designated professions.
But Lai opted to apply for an associate degree in business administration at HKU SPACE Community College, affiliated with the University of Hong Kong.
“I think it would be better to do an associate degree and try to get back into public universities in the third year,” he said.
The degree programme under the subsidy scheme costs HK$36,700 for the coming academic year, while the unsubsidised associate degree will set Lai back HK$55,000 for the next school year.
But he said it was worth the risk.
“Having a degree from a government-funded university is more recognised when it comes to finding jobs, and better for my future,” he said.
Professor Chan Lung-sang, the community college’s principal, said about 60 per cent of its associate degree graduates got a place in the third year of public university courses.
Lai, who planned to work part-time to help with tuition fees, said he hoped the government would consider subsidising associate degree programmes.
But some students seized the new government funding.
Tsang Shing-wui decided on a Hang Seng Management College bachelor of business administration programme, and was offered a place on Monday.
He said the subsidy meant the course would only cost HK$33,700 a year – less than that in public universities – adding he was not worried about the degree being less recognised.
“At least it guarantees a degree, which is better than an associate degree or higher diploma,” he said.