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Mainland students vie for higher-ed in HK

Updated: 2012-06-19 13:26
( China Daily)

"I grew up watching TV series about life in Hong Kong. I have visited the city several times during breaks. I think there will be little difficulty for me to adapt life there, very soon," said Lin Sutong, a 17-year-old student from Shanghai's No 17 middle school.

Many students talked about "familiarity" when they spoke of Hong Kong, probably thanks to easier access to the city in recent years. What's more, Hong Kong holds out the promise for an increasing number of mainland graduates choosing to stay and make the city their new home.

Mainland students vie for higher-ed in HK
Mainland students vie for higher-ed in HK

University graduates pose for pictures during the City University of Hong Kong congregation. [Agencies] 

The Hong Kong government made special provision in its immigration ordinance, granting one year extensions to mainland students after graduation, with the expressed purpose of attracting new talent to the cities. Once mainland students graduate from Hong Kong universities, they have a full year to find jobs in the SAR. Hong Kong has also simplified the application process for working visas for mainland graduates.

University graduates pose for pictures during the City University of Hong Kong congregation. [Agencies]

Surveys of universities in Hong Kong reveal more than half of graduating mainland students have stayed in Hong Kong to work, in the past three years.

"There is great pressure to find a job and live in the city — it is not an easy thing," said Sophie Ying, 28-year-old communication specialist who has been working in Hong Kong since 2007.

Huang Ying, a law student who graduated in 2009, said she has been working in a law firm in Hong Kong. She finds the city unforgiving.

"You don't live well, because the housing is expensive. You don't have time for proper food, and you cannot expect to raise a kid like your mainland peers do," said Huang.

Huang said no matter how difficult life has become for her, she does not want to complain too much, because life is fair and balanced for residents in Hong Kong, whether they are natives or migrants.

Students now studying in Hong Kong, said life is more difficult than they expected, but they encourage new graduates to come anyway.

"Hong Kong is a nice place for students, after all," said Huang.

Applications for travel permits to Hong Kong take less time and money than they ever have in the past, and many applicants say they already are acquainted with Hong Kong's amenities from previous trips to the city.

Some students said exchange programs they have taken in school planted the seed that grew into a fully blossomed aspiration to study in Hong Kong.

"The best part of life in Hong Kong is that at midnight, after you study for hours in the library and fancy a live concert to cheer you up, you can hop on a night bus and find a place, have a bowl of hot noodles, and then go back to the dormitory for a sound sleep," said Chang Lulu, 20-year-old student from Shanghai Tongji University.

Chang says her summer school program in Hong Kong in 2011 led her to decide to choose Hong Kong for postgraduate studies.

Tan Hongxiang, a 21 year-old Economics major from Fudan University, is applying to Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Technology University and Hong Kong City University.

"My first trip to Hong Kong was three years ago when I was still in high school. I like the atmosphere that enables students and teachers to communicate without boundaries. So now that I have the opportunity to study outside the mainland, I am considering Hong Kong," said Tan.

Zhu Fu-rong, professor with the Faculty of Science, Hong Kong Baptist University, said universities in Hong Kong are attractive for students from the mainland for several reasons.

Universities in Hong Kong do not require extremely demanding language qualifications, said Zhu.

Take Hong Kong Baptist University for example, language records for IELTS or TOEFL are not mandatory for applicants to undergraduate programs. Such records are only for reference when the admissions committee is making final decisions, said Zhu.

Another advantage of studying in Hong Kong is that there is little trouble getting a study permit compared to the high costs of applying for a student visa to other areas, said Zhu.

For students from the mainland, Hong Kong feels like a friendly destination in terms of quick adaptation — after all, the social environment is close to that of mainland students' hometowns, and students can taste great Chinese food while taking their education in a cosmopolitan city.

There's also the Association of Mainland and Hong Kong Youths, which was formed in 2000 by a group of keen students from the mainland, that assists newcomers to integrated into Hong Kong life, Zhu noted.

Exposure to worldwide academic fields and scholars is also an advantage. Exchange programs between universities in Hong Kong and universities in other countries are offered frequently. There are workshops and seminars by world-renowned scholars. In addition to having all this embedded in the intensive curriculum, many undergraduate and post graduate programs offer exchange opportunities, internship placements in various business, and sometimes overseas internship plans.

Parents also consider Hong Kong a favorable place, since for many, it's only a two-hour flight between home and Hong Kong.

When deciding where to go for overseas studies, a student and his parents usually consider the question from several aspect, cost in particular; quality of the program; prospects for finding work and lifestyle. Studying in Hong Kong may meet all of those criteria for many people, said Li Chunyu, an overseas education consultant based in Shanghai.

"Nowadays as many students are the only child of their families and usually they are funded by families, parents are having a big say in students' decision about where to go, and how far from home. Hong Kong is definitely among the top priorities, said Li.

Parents want to see a transparent application process for their children, and do not wish the students to blow money on a university program they can't credit.

Lu Qi, 51-year-old parent of a college graduate said he believes Hong Kong is the right place to go, because almost all the universities have established good reputations in the world's academic arena. For Lu, Hong Kong means a quality guarantee for higher education.

"I don't know much about universities in other countries, but I have heard there are some diploma mills overseas. In Hong Kong you can guarantee that a graduate from a university in Hong Kong has passed strict assessment and not from a diploma mill," said Lu.

Another concern is the cost. Many students are relying on parents to pay tuition fees and living expenses.

Liu Tianjiao, a 20-year-old media and communication major, said she regards education in Hong Kong an "investment that may be profitable over long years".

The junior from Fudan University said she has applied to Hong Kong University, Hong Kong Chinese University and Hong Kong City University.

Liu and her parents are doing a calculation for cost-effectiveness for pursuing a Master's Degree in Hong Kong. If she stays in Shanghai for a Master's Degree in media, she does not have to pay the fee if she passes the entrance exam, and pays about 1,200 yuan per year for dormitory fees, and another 30,000 yuan for living expenditures. That's about 100,000 yuan for three years of study.

In Hong Kong, on the other hand, the entire cost may reach 300,000 yuan for two-year study, triple the cost on the mainland.

Liu, however, is not considering taking up postgraduate studies on the mainland. She thinks "Hong Kong is more progressive in the field of media", and she should "apply to universities that have established reputation in my pursued field," she concluded.

Applying for awards and scholarships are alternative funding resources, and for applicants to undergraduate programs, admission usually come together with scholarship offers, said Zhu, professor with Hong Kong Baptist University.

"My university offers a wide range of scholarships and bursaries, and after admission, if students perform with excellence, they may receive further scholarships," said Zhu.

Wang Danfei, Wang Xizhuo and Wang Xinwei contributed to this story.