The centrally located, fascinating Hong Kong is one of the most desired locations for the international student looking for adventure in a fast-paced and exciting city. After four years of studying in Hong Kong, I would like to share with you my insights, and how if you’re thinking about a studying adventure in Asia, you may want to consider Asia’s World City.
Hong Kong has developed into a globalised city because of its strategic location at the heart of Asia. Known as Asia’s World City, it has grown to become the world’s fourth largest banking and financial centre, and has become a melting pot of Easter and Western cultures with a vibrant diversity in lifestyle. 7.3 million people make up the ethnically diverse, international population of locals, expatriates, and students, and the city is split between a densely populated mainland and over 200 outlying islands in the South China Sea. Hong Kong has served historically as a centre for trade with its impressive transport connections within Asia and with the rest of the world.
The city was under British rule for 156 years before reverting to Chinese sovereignty in 1997. Colonial times have brought monumental historical change to the territory, the influences of which are still seen today. Visually, a walk through Hong Kong will show numerous street names and buildings that hail from the colonial period, such as Gloucester Road and the Former Central Police Station. The city is governed by English Common Law, which makes politics and the legislative process familiar to those who are knowledgeable of British judiciary ideology.
Hong Kong is basically a capitalist economy, and most resources are owned privately and people are free to make production and consumption decisions. The economy is also highly industrialised, and is known for its low taxation, almost free port trade, and its renowned international financial market. Hong Kong is ideally located for growing companies and attracts expats and business owners who want to do business throughout the rest of Asia and Mainland China. A promising future for economics and trade have advocated not only for the spread of knowledge between businesses, but also for the development of talented leaders for the future and institutions that bring this to fruition.
The education system has also been influenced by the British colonial presence through the material that is taught. At the turn of the 20th century, the education system in Hong Kong changed to offer high-quality English instruction to better prepare students for higher education, professional training, or additional studying abroad. New policies were introduced that established evening classes for engineering, science, and business for students throughout the city. And nowadays, universities in Hong Kong emphasise the balance of traditional teaching practices with innovation for the future, and advocate for international impact and strong local commitment.
Currently Hong Kong offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs in many institutions throughout the city that are respected and recognised worldwide. The British education system has influenced that of Hong Kong’s to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to become the leaders for the future.
Hong Kong has reverted back to Chinese authority in 1997. The policy known as “one country, two systems” describes the framework with which Hong Kong operates as an independent country from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Hong Kong’s Basic Law preserves British common law and other colonial tenets like property rights and free speech, a system that is different from that of China. Though the political systems are different, the education system in Hong Kong and China do share some similarities in terms of developments and changes in the system.
Both Hong Kong and China placed an increased focus on higher education within the past 200 years. The emphasis has been the expansion of higher education, and all kinds of non-government initiatives have also come about as a result of the expansion gaining its own momentum. Private institutions and self-financing programs can be found in both Hong Kong and China, offering a wide range of programs for local and international students. The development of the higher education system has also spurred a new level of desire for academic studies, which has increased the enrolment for secondary schools in both places. Four universities from both places are ranked as the Top 10 Universities in Asia 2018; given that there's such a huge difference in size and number of universities in both regions, it's a good indication of the quality of education in Hong Kong and China.
The language of instruction at universities in Hong Kong and China are different. China’s official language is Mandarin; Hong Kong’s official languages are English and a southern Chinese variety known as Cantonese. If you’re an international student coming without any knowledge of Asian languages, you may want to consider looking into what institutions offer English as the language of instruction. Most higher education institutions in China focus on lesson delivery in Mandarin, though English-speaking students may find a list of modules designed for learning Mandarin at their host university. If you study in Hong Kong, in comparison, you’ll notice that English is used as the language of instruction.
When it comes to social media and the Internet, students and the general public in Hong Kong enjoy unfettered access to the Internet in comparison, though they may use social media applications specific to China if they need to conduct business or talk to friends in Mainland China.
Both Hong Kong and China contain a selection of higher education institutions for students located within the region or abroad, however, studying in Hong Kong offers a wonderful academic experience that includes an immersive aspect with the city’s culture.
Hong Kong’s institutions underwent major changes in curriculum, language instruction, and methods of assessment, creating a style of education that was more student-focused. With a shift towards whole-person development and the addition of courses with an emphasis on critical thinking, higher education institutions in Hong Kong are relevant and competitive on the global scale. According to the QS Asia University Rankings 2018, four universities in Hong Kong feature within the top ten best universities in the region. They are also typically the most popular choices for international students who want to study in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) offers students many respected programs in engineering, science, and technology, and is known worldwide as an international research university. HKUST places focus on an East-West educational ethos that revolves around the core values of excellence, critical thinking, and open-mindedness. Prospective students may browse the HKUST website and find a degree that is perfect for them.
The University of Hong Kong (HKU) was founded in 1912 and is the first degree bearing institution of higher education in Hong Kong. It is located along the hill on Hong Kong Island and supports the local community in several ways, in addition to its production of talented college graduates. On the HKU website, students will find that programs deliver impact through internationalisation, innovation, and interdisciplinarity. The University attracts and nurtures global scholars through excellent research, teaching and learning, and knowledge exchange, aspects that are important for any student coming from abroad.
The City University of Hong Kong is located at the heart of Asia’s World City. The University, its programs, and professors advocate for the mutual enrichment of different cultures and intellectual traditions for human betterment. Its distinguished faculty members are recruited from all over the world, and the City University of Hong Kong website offers a look into the many excellent programs and academic collaborations found at the institution.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) focuses on a higher education that combines and brings out the best of Chinese and Western cultures. The university is a magnet for talent, attracting local and international students and scholars who study, teach, and research on the beautiful campus. A look into the CUHK website shows the vast opportunities students have for education, research, and knowledge transfer.
Since there are so many students from overseas and the Chinese Mainland studying in Hong Kong, there is an even greater international dimension to the higher education system in Hong Kong. Depending on the type of degree and university, programs may have a greater focus on research or focus on the practical application of theories discussed at lectures. Exams are a key feature of the higher education system in Hong Kong, though professors and tutors offer as much help as is needed – many modules include a combination of weekly lectures paired with hour-long tutorials of a maximum of 12 students.
As a non-local student, the tuition fee of studying in Hong Kong will vary according to your level of study and choice of university. Unless you’re an exchange student and paying the tuition fee of your home university, the annual tuition fee for non-local students can range from USD 11,500 to USD 34,000. Of course, this amount depends on the host institution and your chosen program, and doesn’t include other expenses for things like course materials or examination fees. Hong Kong is notorious for high rent, but university student halls are extremely cheap. International students have access to accommodation in prime real estate locations on, for example, Hong Kong Island. Depending on extracurricular activities and lifestyle, living expenses may vary, so it’s a good idea to budget for living in Hong Kong. Though there are restaurants and shops that are more expensive, Hong Kong also offers a wide selection of local and traditional restaurants and shops that won’t take a bite out of your wallet!
With so many wonderful places in Asia to choose from, you may ask why studying in Hong Kong is the best option. There’s a whole list of benefits of studying abroad, and though local and international students study very hard, you'll find that the pace of study and wonderful learning experience come hand-in-hand with an immersive Hong Kong cultural experience. Even though you should place focus on your academic progress, in Hong Kong you’ll be able to expand your horizons in general with so much to discover in terms of networking opportunities, a multicultural food experience, and travelling options. While studying in Hong Kong, you’ll find yourself based in a World City with endless new things to experience.
You’ll be able to meet and network not only with students from Hong Kong, but with international students and professors who come from all over the world. Networking is an important skill to develop during your university studies. As such an international city, Hong Kong offers wonderful opportunities to network in preparation for your future. Universities throughout the city offer extra activities with student societies in nearly every department, creating even more opportunities for local and international students to get more involved with their universities and to network.
Restaurants throughout Hong Kong offer so many international cuisines and you’ll also find delicious local street food and dimsum, a delectable meal of small fried or steamed savoury dumplings with various fillings. Though there are large shopping malls and high-class restaurants, you’ll find local noodle shops and smoky Daoist temples all throughout Hong Kong with a lazy afternoon walk through its winding streets and alleys. Since 70% of Hong Kong is covered by national parks, there are so many choices for spectacular spots for hiking, cycling, and rock climbing. A weekend or afternoon break from study refreshes the mind, and offers a glimpse of more traditional lifestyles outside of the hustle and bustle of the city.
Efficient and fast public transport in Hong Kong provides easy access to anywhere you can think of in the city, from ferries that take you to Lamma Island to minibuses that transport you to SaiKung with speed. Once you've finished a class on campus, you can easily escape from the busy city and spend an afternoon on one of the outlying islands. Because of its strategic location, Hong Kong is the perfect place to plan weekend getaways to other major cities in East and Southeast Asia, including Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei, and Shanghai. As a student, you may want to consider budget travel when exploring these destinations.
When you study in Hong Kong, you’ll see that local Hong Kong students are welcoming and know how to have fun – they’ll take international students out for karaoke, hiking, or the best hot-pot restaurants in the city. If you accept their invitations, you’ll have an even further, immersive experience studying in Hong Kong.
Having spent four years studying at The University of Hong Kong, I would like to share with you my personal favorite tips. Hong Kong embodies juxtaposition in nearly every aspect of life. You’ll see the amazing skyscrapers in Central and forested mountain slopes, crazily busy streets and quiet bays and islands, wet markets next to designer shopping malls, bamboo scaffolding along glass-and-steel buildings, and a local tradition blended with a Western colonial history. The international population allows for an adventure through different cultures within a single small area, and the characteristic duality of Hong Kong will not cease to amaze or exist.
By far the two best places for dimsum in the city are on Hong Kong Island. The first is called Lin Heung Tea House and is situated in the middle of the truly busy and bustling Central District. Perhaps one of the most traditional restaurants, you’ll see once-used bird cages hanging from the ceiling and waiters and waitresses pushing along the iconic metal carts filled with steamers that are yours for the taking. In Kennedy Town you’ll find Sun Hing, another incredibly local and delicious dimsum restaurant. Sun Hing opens at 3AM for the local elderly population in the district, but many students and late-nighters make their way to the restaurant for the comfort of lau sa bao, a custard bun.