An Examination of the Value of Associate Degree in Hong Kong
: Student, Parent and Teacher Perspectives

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


The Associate Degree (AD) was introduced to Hong Kong in 2000 in order to develop a more diversified higher education system and provide more higher education opportunities to students. In quantitative terms, the AD policy was largely successful – within five years, the participating rate of post-secondary education had increased to 66%, compared to 33% before. However, widespread concern has emerged regarding its quality and continuity. Whereas a predominance of studies showed that the AD programmes were clouded with complaints, the large and continuing enrolments to date seem to have refuted those negative claims. The overall benefits and worthiness for students pursuing ADs are not clearly known.
This study examined the valuation of ADs from those who have enrolled (namely, AD students and graduates; known as the insiders) and those who have not enrolled, but may involve in decision making related to enrolment (namely, school students and their parents and teachers; known as the outsiders). Questionnaires were used to seek the insider and outsider evaluation around the six concerning aspects of ADs, assess their knowledge levels on ADs and measure their overall valuation of ADs in terms of their self-stated intention to support enrolment in ADs under a given scenario. A total of 591 insiders and 533 outsiders participated in this study.

The regression models revealed that the overall valuation of ADs was dependent on the respondents’ group membership (specifically, a lower valuation if the respondent belongs to the outsider group; a higher valuation if the respondent belongs to the insider group), knowledge level on ADs (a lower valuation with the respondent’s increase in misinformation and ignorance about ADs; and vice versa) and several attribute-specific evaluations of ADs (a lower valuation with a fall in respondents’ performance ratings of articulation opportunities, social recognition and teaching quality; and vice versa). This study identified the presence of an information asymmetry, which accounted for the “valuation gap” between insiders and outsiders. This study also affirmed an idiosyncratic value of ADs in offering students a gateway to higher education, rather than an end in itself. Yet, the sub-degree system in Hong Kong signalled a sense of sub-standard quality and qualifications, lowering the perceived value of ADs to the potential students. Several recommendations were proposed to improve the value of ADs.
Date of Award9 May 2023
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorE V Washbrook (Supervisor)

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