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Monday, July 11, 2016, 20:20

Associate degree not career booster: Survey


HONG KONG – More than 80 percent of Hong Kong students think associate degrees benefit them in pursuing higher education, but over 70 percent think they help little in job hunting, a survey revealed on Monday.

Local group Youth New World conducted the telephone survey of 297 people aged between 18 and 25 in late June. The interviewees were asked their views on associate degrees – introduced to the city in 2000 with the aim of increasing the number of students with post-secondary qualifications.

Some 81 percent believed holding an associate degree helped students to get a bachelor’s degree – the former is often regarded as an inferior substitute for the latter – and 75.5 percent believed that it was essential to do a bachelor’s degree after completing an associate degree.

For the 2015-16 school year, the city has 23 self-financing schools and colleges that offer associate degree courses to 20,475 students. The number of students enrolled has increased by 30 percent compared to 10 years ago, according to Youth New World.

Only around 30 percent of the associate degree holders could be placed for further study, said Choy Ho-lun, center-in-charge of Youth New World. He added that with low acceptance to higher education, associate degree courses wasted both time and money.

Choy suggested that the government might consider adding more bachelor’s degree places in order to accommodate the increasing number of associate degree holders.

The survey also found 75.5 percent of interviewees stated an associate degree helped little in job hunting and 71.9 percent agreed that it was better to take career-oriented courses than associate degree courses.

Tang Wing-yiu, vice-chairman of the Board of Directors of Youth New World, said the higher diploma – which has more emphasis on skill training – offered more advantages than the associate degree as the former provides more internship opportunities to students.

The higher diploma and the associate degree are both valued below a bachelor's degree and above a certificate or a diploma.

The associate degree is more for students who have no clear idea of a future career, said Dominie Sit, who is now studying marketing management at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). She finished her two-year higher diploma courses at HKU SPACE before she went to HKUST.

“If you are clear about what job you are going to have in the future, it is better to go for the higher diploma as you will be exposed to more job opportunities,” she said, adding that 80 to 90 percent of students in HKU SPACE got internships while studying there.

Meanwhile, the group also suggested the government offer no-interest loans to students who are studying on associate degree programs, as the tuition fees for the degree range from HK$80,000 to HK$120,000. Low-interest loans are offered but it helps little as it normally takes students over 15 years to pay back, according to the group.

Willa Wu contributed to the story .

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