The British Council is expecting 6,000 students to turn up to its two-day Education UK exhibition which will gather around 70 UK schools, colleges and universities offering consultation and on-the-spot admission interviews for the coming academic year.
There has been a general increase in students going to the UK for education, although last year only 9,423 general student visas were issued, 2 per cent less than 2013. Steve Corry, Regional Business Development Manager at British Council, says this is because of the lower birth rate in Hong Kong. This year, 74,131 students undertook the Diploma of Secondary Education, a 7 per cent drop compared with last year.
Anson Chan Pui-shing, a Form Five student at Carmel Secondary School, says he has been planning to study in the UK for more than two years after reading online about opportunities to study there. His goal is to go to the London School of Economics. “Nowadays, having a bachelor’s degree is so common. To stand out, you need to have one from a prestigious school.” But Anson says he is a bit worried about the high tuition and living costs of studying in the UK. Last year, HSBC estimated that these were US$32,000 per year. Taking currency exchange rates into consideration, Corry says this figure is about the same in Australia, and slightly lower than in the United States.
Boey Ho Po-yee, a 17-year-old student at the fair, said she was leaving HKMA David Li Kwok Po College next month to study in Nottingham. She will spend two years studying for the A-levels, and hopes to continue her university education in the UK. “My grades in Hong Kong aren’t that good, and if I stayed here I might not be able to get into the major I want,” says Boey, who aspires to be a nutritionist. “Plus, I’ll have two more years before taking the university entrance exams, so I can be better prepared.”
However, Corry says he has also noticed that more students are choosing to complete their Diploma of Secondary Education in Hong Kong first before considering going abroad, compared with when the public exam was first brought in back in 2012.
Nearly a fifth of Hong Kong students pursuing tertiary studies in the UK chose business-related subjects as their major, while another fifth picked law. However, Corry says the demand for engineering courses has been increasing.
“Parents and students are becoming more sophisticated,” he says. “They know banks will quite happily recruit engineering graduates because they have very strong skills in project management.”
Tiffany Ng, 19, a management student at the University of Warwick, said she chose to study in the UK because it had similar cultures to Hong Kong, a former British colony.
Jimmy Cheung, 21, a music student in the Royal College of Music in London, said he could focus more on his musical goals because unlike his friends in Hong Kong, he wasn’t required to take physical education or general education courses. “When you’re stressed about getting all the credits to complete your degree, it’s easy to lose sight of your goals,” he says.
“Students in the UK don’t think university is the only way to succeed, so a lot of them are able to do what they really love instead of just studying,” adds Cheryl Wong, a 20-year-old media and philosophy student at Newcastle University. “It’s very inspiring.”