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Hong Kong

Higher Education


Higher education generally covers two major types of institutions: degree-granting and technical/vocational education (postsecondary). Both are under the general supervision of the University Grants Council (UGC). The UGC fully subsidizes eight institutions offering bachelor's degrees. These include City University of Hong Kong (City U), Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU or Baptist University), Lingnan University (LU), Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Poly U), Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), University of Hong Kong (HKU), and most recently Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd).

The oldest university in Hong Kong is the University of Hong Kong, formed in 1912 when the Medical College (founded in 1887) joined with the new Technical Institute. In recent decades, HKU has established itself as a major research institution with international acclaim. The next development came 50 years later, in 1963, when three colleges joined to form the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which also has developed into a highly respected teaching and research university. CUHK is home of the other medical school in Hong Kong.

In the 1970s and 1980s, several new higher educational institutions opened. Hong Kong Baptist University, which offers university degrees through the doctoral level, opened as Baptist College in 1970. Today, Baptist University has no formal affiliation with the church. In 1978, a branch of Guangzhou's Lingnan University opened with a strong emphasis on the liberal arts. LU has expanded into programs offering a Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy in Chinese, cultural studies, English, philosophy, translation, business, and social sciences. Hong Kong Polytechnic University began in 1972 as Hong Kong Polytechnic and became a fully-accredited university in 1994. In 1984, City University of Hong Kong began as City Polytechnic. It also was fully accredited in 1994. The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (APA) started up in 1984 and, in the late 1990s, began offering first degree level programs, in addition to advanced diplomas and certificates in the fine arts (dance, drama, music, and technical arts). It has about 700 full-time students. In 1989, the Open University of Hong Kong (OUHK) began as the Open Learning Institute, and in 1996 OUHK became accredited as a university. OUHK offers university degrees, but it is funded independently, mostly from student fees. It is Hong Kong's major institution offering distance learning. Half of OUHK's 18,000 students are between 26- and 35-years-old, and most of these students attend part time.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) opened in 1991 and immediately offered university and graduate level courses. In 1994, the Hong Kong Institute of Education was formed from four colleges of education. At first it offered professional certificates and training, but in 1997, HKIEd became fully funded by the government under the sponsorship of the University Grants Committee; in the following year, HKIEd offered its first degree programs.

Most bachelor's degree programs take three years. Unlike programs in the United States, Hong Kong university degree programs focus on a single major and closely related subjects, rather than requiring a broad range of core courses across disciplines. There is a strong movement to change to the broader-based education system used by U.S. universities, which would require most Hong Kong universities to restructure course requirements.

Business and related fields are the most popular university degree subjects. In 1999-2000, business and management accounted for 23 percent of the majors in UGC funded institutions. Almost a third of these were studying accounting. About 16 percent studied science and mathematics, and another 19 percent chose engineering as their major field. Other popular majors include economics, medicine, and computer science.

In an attempt to expand their resources and international reputation, several universities have formed partnerships with universities overseas and on the China mainland. For example, Poly U has ties with Tianjin Medical University and Peking Union Medical College for teaching health science research. Baptist University offers a long-distance MBA degree program jointly with Scotland's University of Strathclyde.

A number of private institutions provide education at the tertiary level. They are self-supporting, so they depend on private funding. One is Caritas Francis Hsu College (CFHC) which targets people who are mainly working in the commercial fields and want to continue their formal education. In coordination with universities in Great Britain and Australia, Francis Hsu College's Centre for Advanced and Professional Studies (CAPS) offers bachelor and master programs in a variety of fields, including accounting, business management, and hospitality management.

Higher vocational and technical education in the nongovernment sponsored schools must register with the government under the Post Secondary College Ordinance. Currently, only Shue Yan College (SYC) is registered. Opened in 1976, SYC offers four-year secondary diploma courses and a few first degree and masters programs. SYC has ties to universities in China and overseas.

The other type of postsecondary education consists of institutions that provide technical and vocational courses, called sub-degree levels. These programs tend to be vocational, more specifically targeted to teaching work-related skills. They are not equivalent to a bachelors degree from a university. Typically, candidates need passing scores on at least five HKCEEs to qualify for sub-degree programs. Upon completion of these programs, students receive a higher certificate, a diploma, or higher diploma. As a rule, these students usually attend part time since they normally work full time. The length of study ranges from two to four years. A variety of these programs are offered through several colleges and universities, including Poly U, APA, HKIEd, City U, OUHK, and the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE).

The major government sponsor of technical and vocational training is the Vocational Training Council (VTC), founded in 1982, which offers programs through its IVE. Although officially these are not classified as secondary education, they do include some senior secondary courses that help prepare some students for the HKCEE. IVE has nine different institutes around Hong Kong that teach a wide range of vocational courses in coordination with industry, from commerce to textiles. In 1999-2000, some 54,781 full- and part-time students studied with IVE. Some of the curriculum is designed for higher level technical positions in industry and commerce. Upon completion, students receive certificates and associate degrees.

Students must pay for their higher education. For needy students attending the University Grants Council (UGC) subsidized institutions, financial assistance is available from government grants and loans. Besides the eight universities listed earlier, other subsidized institutions are IVE, APA, and Prince Philip Dental Hospital. In 1999-2000, the UGC processed 32,085 applications and offered assistance to almost all applicants. In many cases, students received a combination of grants and loans to cover their higher education expenses. The average amount offered was HK$47,223 (US$6,054.60).

In the early 1980s, total enrollment in UGC funded tertiary institutions for full time, first degree students numbered 2,000 and 3,000, or approximately 3 to 4 percent of the 17- to 20-year-old population. Then Hong Kong authorities began to build more institutions of higher education. The percentage of the 17- to 20-year-old population entering as full time, first degree students more than doubled between 1984 and 1990, to more than 9 percent, or approximately 7,000 full-time students. From 1991 to 1997, full-time students increased by 32 percent in UGC funded institutions (46 percent if the VTC technical colleges are included). By the late 1990s, there were approximately 14,500 (about 19 percent) of 17- to 20-year-olds entering UGC funded bachelor degree level institutions full time each year. The total enrollment at all levels for full-time students at UGC institutions in 1999-2000 was 69,948 students. The total enrollment for all of the 11 major tertiary institutions was 112,473 students. Another 150,000 people were taking some kind of continuing training and education.

Additional topics

Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceHong Kong - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundation, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education