They are more or less the equivalent of form 7 plus the first year in three-year university degree programs. And they are supposed to prepare the student for further studies, presumably to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, the number of full-time degree places at universities in Hong Kong are rather limited.
So, those who can afford it, enter overseas universities, in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, etc. These countries welcome them with open arms because these students are a good source of income.
There are also other opportunities to study for a degree in Hong Kong, mainly in part-time programs offered by local universities, or overseas universities. That’s why many of the associate degree programs can claim that a large percentage of their graduates progress to study in bachelor’s degree programs.
Those with good results may even be accepted into the second year of three-year degree programs. Even with these fortunate ones, however, life may not be easy. Many have found that the standards at the universities are much higher than that at the community colleges. Sometimes, they have to take subjects with titles similar to those they took in their community colleges. So they were lured into a false sense of security. But they found out soon enough that the subjects are much more demanding han before.
There are, of course, some who continue to excel in universities. But it is not uncommon for associate degree graduates to find that their academic performance drop by half of a grade, or even one full grade. For example, they may drop from an average grade of B+ to B, or even C+, after they enter reputable universities from reputable community colleges.