Jimin Kang, 17, Chinese International School
In an increasingly competitive society, we can all agree that the best kind of education is effective, accessible and universal. All three criteria are ticked off in the case of non-degree courses such as higher diplomas and other certificate programmes.
Firstly, non-degree courses offer quick and effective ways for professionals – particularly those in technical and academic fields – to develop new skills and advance their careers.
In a tight job market, it pays to have specific abilities that set you apart from someone else. Diploma and certificate programmes offer qualifications in areas that greatly enhance employability.
A study conducted by Brainbench – an American certificates provider – revealed that IT professionals with qualifications are more likely to get salary increases, proving that non-degree programmes can, in fact, make a tangible difference.
Secondly, non-degree courses do not carry the dual burden of cost and commitment that comes with traditional degree programmes.
To obtain a degree, students need to spend several years learning core subjects alongside a variety of electives. This means an unnecessary amount of time, money and effort goes into a process that could have few or no consequences.
Meanwhile, non-degree programmes offer students greater flexibility as they have the option of taking shorter, cheaper courses at any time.
Thirdly, non-degree courses can help make education universal. In an increasingly tech- and knowledge-based society, we must encourage non-traditional alternatives so that more people will be able to access education and make a positive contribution to their communities.
Too often society falls into the trap of championing tradition over common sense. Therefore, it is worthwhile for education institutions to consider a wide range of choices to help build a better society.
Wincy Leung, 19, University of Hong Kong
There are many options to study for non-degree qualifications after finishing school. So students have many choices when it comes to higher education; whether that leads to personal enrichment or career goals. However, this system is often challenged by the public, which questions whether universities should offer non-degree courses.
While degree and non-degree courses may be both taught by well-qualified tutors, there is a huge gap in the standard of education. Many people see non-degree courses to be “profit-only ventures”.
Non-degree courses may involve learning things that were already taught in secondary school, while degree courses offer education and research at the highest level.
Plus, a university student has to work really hard to obtain their degree. The same level of commitment is not required of non-degree students, which might be one of the reasons why major companies tend to hire candidates with traditional degrees.
Instead of benefitting candidates who didn’t go to university, it widens the academic gap between degree and non-degree students. In turn, this contributes to the increasing wage gap in our society.
To differentiate between degree and non-degree students, we need separate institutions. Higher diplomas, associate degrees, and certificate courses should be offered by accredited colleges and technical training institutions, whereas universities should focus on their core purpose of offering degree courses and providing high quality education.
Hong Kong’s tertiary education system should introduce certain standards. Otherwise, the reputation of our universities could be tarnished.