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    Updated on Monday, April 8, 2002 11:20 PM

Full-time grads have an edge when firms hire

Many employers still see graduates of full-time courses as better trained than their distance-learning counterparts

By Jane Lee ,The Straits Times Interactive Singapore

THE $20,000 you spent on getting an external degree may just be money down the drain.
Half of the 214 employers who responded to a Straits Times survey prefer to hire graduates who have taken full-time courses. Only 4 per cent of them favour those who did distance learning. The remaining employers have no preference.

Employers interviewed after the survey attribute the finding to doubts about the admission and examination standards of distance-learning programmes.

Mr Stephen Tjoa, accounting firm KPMG's associate director of human resource, said: 'There's a traditional mindset that a full-time student is better prepared as he can concentrate all his efforts on completing a course.
'Besides, some people think that you must have screwed up somewhere along the way if you are doing distance learning. These are all mindsets that are very hard to change.'
Miss Frances Chai, a corporate communications manager who received an external degree from Australia's Edith Cowan University, has a few strong words to say about the stigma attached to distance learning.
She said: 'These people think we have an easy time getting a degree, but they don't know how much we slog for it, on top of our full-time jobs.'

Despite employers' sentiments, people are still keen on pursuing an external degree.
As Miss Nancy Chua, 29, a sales executive with an external degree from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, said: 'At the end of the day, it is still a degree.
'And it is our passport to better pay and a better job.'

According to the Department of Statistics, there were 21,010 students enrolled in external bachelor-degree programmes in 2000, a 50-per-cent jump from 13,990 in 1997.
They tend to take up courses in business or information technology.
The courses cost between $12,000 and $30,000, which covers tuition, registration and examination fees.
Commercial schools said the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and that employers should give distance-learning students a chance.

Mrs Ho Soon Eng, Singapore Institute of Management's divisional director of bachelors' degree programmes, pointed out that distance-learning students have to juggle studies and work, which shows their commitment and strength of character.
Ms Tan Gek Khim, a director at the Management Development Institute of Singapore, said: 'Not all students are able to afford an overseas education, and there are many working adults who want to gain higher qualifications without giving up their jobs.'

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