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Q & A on Sub-degree Programmes

Q1. What are sub-degree programmes?


Sub-degree programmes include programmes leading to qualifications at the level of Associate Degree and Higher Diploma.

Q2. What are the differences between Associate Degree and Higher Diploma?


In general, the Associate Degree qualification is more generic, equipping learners with a broad knowledge base and a solid foundation of generic skills, providing appropriate opportunities for articulation to general degrees for graduates with suitable capabilities and aspirations.


The Higher Diploma qualification is more specialised and serves as a main pillar in the Vocational and Professional Education and Training pathway to provide graduates with a solid foundation and specialised knowledge and skills for either immediate employment at the para-professional level or articulation to specialised degrees.  Higher Diploma programmes should be more inclusive to give due recognition to relevant learning and working experience, including applied learning subjects in secondary schools, and should support economic and manpower needs of industries, professions and the society at large.

Q3. What are the programme structure, length of study and entry requirements of Associate Degree programmes?


The Associate Degree programme have a 2-year curriculum.  For the curriculum and the minimum entry requirements, please refer to the Updated Revised Common Descriptors for Associate Degree and Higher Diploma Programmes (Effective since the 2023/24 academic year or Effective since the 2024/25 academic year)(as applicable) (

Q4. What are the exit qualifications of an Associate Degree?


Associate Degree is a valuable standalone exit qualification. It is normally equivalent to 50% of a 4-year university degree (North America model) or one-third of a 3-year university degree (British model). In other words, Associate Degree graduates can articulate to Year 3 of a 4-year university degree(North America model) or Year 2 of a 3-year university degree (British model). As an exit qualification for employment purpose, Associate Degree holders can take up jobs at elementary management level and posts of assistant rank of the relevant profession.

Q5. Which institutions offer self-financing sub-degree programmes?


Details of institutions offering full-time locally-accredited self-financing sub-degree programmes can be found from the Concourse website (

Q6. Which broad disciplines do these sub-degree programmes cover?


Sub-degree programmes cover various disciplines, including arts and social sciences, science and technology, information technology, design, architectural studies and health care etc.

Q7. Are the qualifications of Associate Degree recognised by the Government as an entry qualification for civil service appointment?


The Government has taken the lead in announcing the acceptance of the qualifications of Associate Degree as one of the entry requirements for appointment to some civil service grades, including Ambulance Officer, Assistant Information Officer (Design), Assistant Information Officer (General), Assistant Information Officer (Photo), Assistant Inspector of Works, Assistant Leisure Services Manager II, Dispenser, Immigration Officer, Inspector of Customs and Excise, Inspector of Police, Occupational Safety Officer II, Station Officer (Control), Station Officer (Operational), Statistical Officer II, Survey Officer, Transport Services Officer II, Optometrist, Physiotherapist I, Radiographer II, Occupational Therapist I and Registered Nurse. Details are obtainable from the section of "Job Opportunities" in the Civil Service Bureau homepage (

Q8. How should students choose sub-degree programmes?


When choosing sub-degree programmes, students should approach the institutions for details of the course contents, the subjects offered, their articulation arrangements with other universities etc. For professional programmes, it is important to know whether the programmes are recognised by local or overseas professional bodies and the extent of exemption from professional examinations. In short, students should make detailed enquiries and comparisons before they decide which programme to enrol in.

Q9. Is academic accreditation (either by HKCAAVQ or institutions with self-accrediting status) equivalent to professional accreditation/recognition?


No. They are different. Academic accreditation and professional recognition are separate processes with different objectives. It is a longstanding practice in Hong Kong and in many other leading jurisdictions with a long accreditation tradition that academic accreditation and professional recognition are dealt with separately by different quality assurance bodies. Whilst academic accreditation is concerned with whether a learning programme is capable of meeting the academic standards required for a particular qualification level, professional recognition is often focused on whether a particular professional association will admit an individual as a professional member or recognize his capability to perform a specific professional role and therefore whether the individual possesses specific professional competencies (often pursuant to specific legal provisions). In the case of Hong Kong, academic accreditation is mainly performed by the HKCAAVQ (with the exception of those institutions with self-accrediting status), whereas professional recognition is undertaken by relevant professional bodies in accordance with their own, profession-specific rules.

In the case of some professions, completion of the professional recognition process may only be possible after the relevant learning programme has commenced (e.g. where the professional body deems it necessary to look at the programme in operation). This is a decision for the relevant professional body to make, and will not affect the academic programme validation by the HKCAAVQ which is in most cases completed before the operation of the relevant learning programme.

Last Review Date: 05/07/2023