Europe isn't usually top of the list when Hong Kong students are thinking about studying overseas. But with its long history, varied heritage and rich culture, the small continent has a lot to offer. This weekend, Hong Kong students can find out more about international student life outside North America, Australia and the UK at the European Higher Education Fair 2010.
For many Hongkongers, the language barrier is one of the biggest concerns about studying in Europe. English is not widely spoken in most of Europe.
But in recent years, many European Union countries have started teaching courses in English to make their institutions more appealing to international students. There are thousands of programmes taught in English to cater for the needs of students who do not speak the country's first language. And some institutes offer courses in English to begin with, then switch to the host country's language once students feel ready.
Take France and Germany, for example, the two most popular destinations for Hong Kong students in continental Europe. France offers about 1,200 courses in English, while Germany has 700 such courses.
'In past years, the traditional European degree systems have been replaced by... international bachelor's, master's and PhD degree programmes,' says Dr Sylvia Brandt, director of the German Academic Exchange Service's Information Centre Hong Kong and Macau.
The European Higher Education Fair, organised by the European Commission, is for students, parents and education advisers who want to find out more about study opportunities in the EU. This is the 10th year the fair has been held in Hong Kong, and this time, a record number of exhibitors are attending, as well as two new countries - Poland and Lithuania.
Fifty-one academic institutions from 13 countries will present their tertiary study programmes from bachelor's to postgraduate degrees, with a focus on popular subjects such as creative industries, visual arts, environment and business. There will be advisers and seminars, and alumni will be on hand to share their experiences.
Initiatives have also been put in place at European universities to allow credits earned elsewhere to be transferred. This means students face fewer obstacles if they wish to broaden their university experience by studying in more than one country.
But one of the most appealing aspects of European study is the price.
'Tuition fees at European universities continue to be significantly lower than at their North American and Australasian counterparts,' Brandt says.
France admitted about 400 students from Hong Kong last year, up 23 per cent from the previous year, according to Prashanth Palanimalai, head of CampusFrance in Hong Kong. And Germany, which also took about 400 students from the city last year, expects a similar increase for the coming year.
The fair will be held at Hong Kong Central Library, 66 Causeway Road, on Saturday and Sunday, from 1pm to 6pm. Admission is free.