Computer whiz Kenneth Lee is the type of student you would imagine heading for university straight after finishing his polytechnic education.

The Nanyang Polytechnic graduate received his diploma last week, coming in second in his Engineering Informatics course with a near- perfect GPA of 3.98 out of 4.

The minimum entry score for polytechnic students going on to university is a GPA of around 3.5 or higher.

But despite Mr Lee's sterling performance, the 24-year-old is choosing to put off getting a degree to focus on his start-up, Alphis. The company provides IT solutions such as Web hosting, queue management and online surveys.

'I started this business in 2009, in my first year of polytechnic. I see a lot of opportunities in the market now,' he tells The Sunday Times, adding that there are government grants to help start-ups like his.

'I want to spend a few years doing the best that I can, and see how it turns out eventually.'

The degree will come in time. Mr Lee says: 'I think that a degree is still quite important. Besides the opportunities that the qualification provides, going through a degree programme helps you grow as a person.'

Every year, most of the best performers from the polytechnics choose to further their studies in universities here or abroad.

The expectations are that a degree usually leads not only to a higher starting pay but also better prospects in their careers.

But some are bucking the trend, choosing instead to start work right away or venture into business.

A Singapore Polytechnic spokesman said that of the 46 students who topped their programmes this year, three have started work while the rest are moving on to university.

At a graduation ceremony last week at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Minister of State for Education Lawrence Wong encouraged those with an entrepreneurial streak to pursue their dreams of starting their own businesses.

'Many of your seniors have taken this path, worked hard, and have achieved success,' he said.

But Mr Wong, who is in charge of a panel looking at expanding the university sector beyond 2015, also assured the audience that the Government would continue to provide more university places for Singaporeans.

Competition for university places among polytechnic students is keen, and 17 per cent of the yearly cohort get places.

By 2015, 20 per cent of each polytechnic cohort will have university places. Mr Wong's committee is looking at further increasing this percentage beyond 2015.

Top polytechnic graduates who choose to enter the workplace say that their diploma courses have prepared them well and that their work stints will help them decide on the next step.

Mr Nick Ng, who was third in his Landscape Architecture class at Singapore Polytechnic in 2010, started work right after graduation.

As a landscape designer, the 26-year-old has worked on various private projects and is an advocate for using greenery to cool down buildings and reduce electricity use.

'It's good for us to have one or two years of experience working. For example, I picked up a lot of practical knowledge on the use of plants which I didn't learn in school,' he says.

While Mr Ng had his parents' support when he decided to start work, others like Ms Li Huimin, 23, had to explain themselves.

She graduated at the top of her Ngee Ann Polytechnic course in Audio-visual Technology last month, and is now working part-time as a production crew member in sound systems at the Esplanade.

'My family was rather worried initially,' she says. But she managed to convince them in the end, telling them how much she enjoys her work.

She now works about eight hours a day and on most weekends, because that is when most shows are staged.

She intends to continue working for at least two years before deciding whether or not to pursue a degree in audio engineering overseas.

'If I were to build sound systems, I would need to consider the users' needs. This is where my current experience will be useful,' she says.

Singapore Polytechnic design graduate Mabel Low has a place in the National University of Singapore, but hopes to gather more work experience and expand her portfolio for now.

She topped her class in Experience and Product Design and is doing an internship at a design firm.

'I think a stint doing real design work would be good for my portfolio, and I hope to land a scholarship to pay for my university studies,' she tells The Sunday Times.

Singapore Polytechnic principal Tan Han Cheong says a work stint provides graduates with the chance to discover where their real interests are.

'It also equips them with necessary life skills such as working with professionals, understanding workplace systems and processes, and knowing what opportunities there are in the market,' he tells The Sunday Times.

'With these, they could make better decisions when they decide to consider further studies.'

Do the students worry about losing out to their peers who move directly to university?

Mr Lee, the IT entrepreneur, says: 'I think that's a risk I'll have to take.'

Mr Ng, the fledging landscape designer, knows that degree holders in his field earn more, but he treasures the exposure he has received so far, not least because it has affirmed his passion for the industry.

'It's never too late to study,' he says. 'It's more important to know what you really want to do in the first place, so you don't waste time and money going for the wrong degree.'