Hong Kong's gradual move away from the British system of education and toward American and mainland Chinese models is leading to a proliferation of associate degrees.
By 2009, university degrees will run for four years as opposed to three and students will have only six years of secondary school education rather than seven.
This change, Hong Kong education experts say, is promoting a proliferation of associate degrees, mirroring the situation in the US where about half of all American students pursuing tertiary education enter two-year programmes.
The changes have been welcomed by the special administrative region's government. Arthur K. C. Li, secretary for education and manpower, said:
"The reform is so fundamental that it may only happen once in a generation, but what it offers will benefit many generations to come."
Hong Kong introduced associate degree programmes in 2000. In 2001, there were only 11 such degrees available across 18 institutions. By 2003, the figure had risen to 71. Now there are at least 93 two-year programmes at five of Hong Kong's universities alone.
John C. Y. Leong, president of the Open University of Hong Kong, said: "In view of the proliferation of associate degree holders, it is likely that students will soon want to articulate to a full degree. It is high time Hong Kong caught up with other countries."