Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Hong Kong reforms spell boost for UK higher ed

From the April 2012 EL Gazette



EDUCATION REFORMS under way in the Hong Kong Special Autonomous Region (SAR) of China include three-year degrees being replaced by four-year programmes from September. According to World University News Service, the anticipated disruption in the higher education sector is causing some final-year school students to head for a university abroad rather than apply for one within the SAR.

Overcrowding in Hong Kong’s eight universities is expected in September when student numbers temporarily explode as students of the existing final third year and the new-style final fourth year share the same facilities. Lecture halls will fill to capacity, and the Chinese University, City University and Polytechnic University are struggling to complete new facilities to accommodate the extra students. Hong Kong University deputy vice-chancellor Roland Chin told WUNS they were in talks with local secondary schools about using their classrooms ‘in an emergency’.

University admissions are likely to come under severe pressure too, with about 110,000 school leavers competing for 30,000 Hong Kong higher education places. For one transitional year school leavers will apply for the new-style under graduate degree courses a year earlier than previously. A new, and bigger, intake of 17-year-olds will take the Kong Hong Diploma of Secondary Education alongside the usual cohort of 18-year-old applicants to universities via the old system.

The pressure on more popular subject places has resulted in many HK students trying their luck at universities abroad as a precaution. The UK has seen the biggest increase in applications to its universities from Hong Kong. British Council in Hong Kong director of education Katherine Forestier told WUNS applications to UK universities from Hong Kong were up 37 per cent as of mid-January compared to the previous year. US, Canadian and Australian universities are also seeing more applications and enquiries from Hong Kong.

Uncertainty about how internationally acceptable the new school-leaving exams will be has also led to more Hong Kong parents putting their children into UK boarding schools

Taiwan has taken in 3,000 applicants for its universities from Hong Kong so far this academic year, and expects to admit in total 3,000 Hong Kong undergraduates – a fivefold increase in student admissions from the SAR over 2010. Many mainland China universities are accepting Hong Kong exams for (already fiercely competitive) undergraduate admission for the first time.