Strong competition for places at Hong Kong universities means many local DSE students consider going abroad. But the high fees mean not all of them can afford to go.
Yet a number of overseas institutions have made studying foreign courses affordable by bringing their study programmes to Hong Kong.
Anthony Tong, business development manager of Hong Kong Universal Education (HKUE), an institution that brings Australian university and college education programmes to Hong Kong, says the courses here are exactly the same as those on offer in Australia.
"Students can get an overseas qualification while saving on living costs," he says.
"Study in Australia can cost more than HK$200,000 a year, including rent. But students who study the same programme in Hong Kong graduate with an Australian degree that costs only about HK$220,000 over a three-and-a-half year period.
"Students can go to Australia to complete the programme at any point during their studies, or complete the programme in Hong Kong, and they end up with the same qualifications."
Many local students applying to study abroad are not high achievers, but the entrance requirement - Level Two in English in the DSE - gives them the chance of an Australian-style education, he says. "They can try a new system of learning without having to travel abroad."
Critics say some overseas programmes lack strict quality control over teaching standards. But Tong says HKEU is serious about making sure education standards here meet those in Australia. "All the teachers of our programme are approved by universities in Australia," he says.
HKUE offers three Australian university and college programmes: a bachelor's degree in business from the University of Tasmania; advanced diploma in marketing from Northern Melbourne Institute of Technical and Further Education (Tafe), and a packaged programme in hospitality and tourism from Tafe South Australia.