The lack of places at local universities has been worrying Hong Kong students in recent years. The problem heated up this summer when the first batch of HKDSE candidates competed with the last A-Level candidates for the limited university places on offer. Some local students who met the basic entrance requirements were not able to secure a place.
Some blame this on an inadequate supply of university places, while others say the problem is being made worse by the growth of non-local students. Figures show that over the past 20 years, local university places have remained more or less the same at about 15,000. With two sets of applicants this year, it was evident that securing a place was more challenging than ever. Also, when compared to the developed world, the university admission rate in Hong Kong is falling way behind. Many Hongkongers are thus asking local universities to drastically increase the number of places available and curb admissions of non-locals. However, are these demands reasonable?
All universities want to nurture well-educated citizens who can use their knowledge for society's benefit. For many years, only a small group of elite students were able to enter university. Yet nowadays, local graduates often complain that it's difficult to find a job since bachelor's degrees have become much more common. Furthermore, with a five-fold increase in university places since the 1980s, entrance requirements have been lowered, producing lower-quality students. So a simple increase in university places is not the best solution.
The growing number of non-local university students should also not be blamed. Most non-local students are talented and are carefully selected. Also, the admission of local and non-local students is done under two separate systems. But both sets of students compete under the same criteria - exam results.
Though the need to increase university places for locals cannot be denied, local students also need to do their part by working harder. And as the HKDSE enters its second year, a lower number of university applicants is expected next year. Candidates next year should have a much higher chance of getting into local universities than applicants did this summer. Instead of losing faith in the system and complaining, it might be more effective to strive towards the ultimate goal by flexing one's intellectual muscles.