Hong Kong protests: Number of students applying for admission to local universities hits fresh low amid ongoing social unrest

Hong Kong protests: Number of students applying for admission to local universities hits fresh low amid ongoing social unrest

International education consultancy says inquiries about studying abroad have increased by more than 10 per cent since demonstrations broke out in June

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Graduates join a flash mob protest at Polytechnic University in Hung Hom.
Photo: SCMP/ Sam Tsang

The social unrest in Hong Kong may be one reason why the number of Hong Kong secondary school students applying for admission to local universities has fallen to a new low after years-long downfall. 

Some scholars partly attributed the 6.4 per cent drop in applications for the 2020 academic year to the political upheaval discouraging students from furthering their studies locally, while an opposition lawmaker warned of an “exodus of talent” if the administration of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor failed to fulfil anti-government protesters’ demands, and return peace to the city.

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The Joint University Programme Admissions System (Jupas) – the main route for school leavers seeking entry to local tertiary institutions – on Thursday released figures on applications for the next academic year.

Some 41,238 applications were received for the 2020 school year, down from 44,054 a year ago. Mainly because of a drop in the student population, applications have been falling steadily in recent years, from 69,172 for the 2013 school year to 46,346 for 2018.

Lingnan University associate vice-president Professor Lau Chi-pang, said: “Some students may shun local universities because of the recent social disruption. Coupled with rumours that some local employers will avoid hiring those who graduate locally in coming years, it is possible the downward trend may continue.”

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Hong Kong Association of the Heads of Secondary Schools chairman Teddy Tang Chun-keung took a similar view.

“Students from better-off families will tend more to go abroad to study,” Tang said. “For ordinary students, we have also heard that more have opted for courses that are better recognised overseas. Probably, students are planning to leave Hong Kong anyway after graduating from local universities.”

International education consultancy IDP said inquiries about studying abroad had increased by more than 10 per cent since the protests broke out in June. The main countries of interest were Britain, Australia and Canada.

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“The reasons for the increase in inquiries are varied and could include dissatisfaction with the education system, but we have seen an obvious rise since the social movement started,” IDP senior manager Calvin Chan Shing-kit said.

Ng Po-shing, a guidance consultant at student counselling group Hok Yau Club, however, said it was too early to jump to conclusions.
 
“The downward trend in applications has continued in recent years, mainly because of a drop in the student population,” Ng said.
 
“With fewer applicants, it also means competition will not be as keen. Last year, some students with 19 points got a university place. This year, 18 points might be good enough,” he said, referring to the grades a student needs in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) examination to gain entry as a freshman.
 

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