Down Under on top for value
Australia remains one of the best-value options for students wanting to further their studies abroad.
Compared with other English-speaking countries, Australian tuition fees and living expenses are relatively cheap. Other attractions include the country's proximity to Hong Kong, a safe environment, good weather, and friendly people.
According to IDP Education Australia, the cost of higher education courses at Australian universities is significantly lower than in countries such as Britain, Canada and the United States.
In a report earlier this month, the body estimates the overall cost of completing an undergraduate business degree, for example, would be 33 per cent lower than in Canada, 35 per cent lower than in Britain, 54 per cent lower than at a public US university, and 73 per cent lower than at a private US university.
Medium annual fees range from US$5,970 in Australia and US$6,102 in Canada to US$23,936 at a private institution of higher learning in the United States.
IDP estimates total living costs for a typical degree range from US$37,006 in Australia to US$56,961 in Britain to US$137,010 at a private institution in the United States.
It is therefore not surprising that Australia is one of the top destinations for students here. Hong Kong is the country's fourth largest source of international students after mainland China, the United States, and Malaysia. The number of student visas issued to special administrative region passport-holders rose 4 per cent last year.
Meanwhile, fully 29 per cent of the student visas issued to British passport holders were issued in Hong Kong.
Australia's high educational standards are a strong attraction, says Catherine Lau Chang Wei-ying, a director of F&C Consultants. 'The country also has a very high standard of living. And compared with Britain, the US, and Canada, the cost of living is much lower. It also has a very pleasant environment.'
A key draw is the country itself.
'Australia is safe,' Mrs Lau says. 'It has mild weather, blue skies, and beautiful beaches. All this adds up to a pleasant environment for studying and living.'
Despite the negative media coverage Australia has received in recent years, owing in large part to the anti-Asian campaigning of controversial politician Pauline Hanson, Mrs Lau maintains that international students are more than welcome in the country.
'The people are very friendly and tolerant of different cultures. If you go there, you will feel comfortable learning and living with them.'
Another draw is the fact that Australia is significantly closer to Hong Kong than other English-speaking countries.
'Australia is only an eight-hour flight away if you want to visit your son or daughter.'
The country has 37 publicly-funded and two private universities. Bachelor degrees can be earned in three or four years, depending on the discipline.
Many universities offer diplomas and advanced diplomas as well.
Students with outstanding results can study for one more year to obtain an honours degree.
Graduate certificates, graduate diplomas, master's degrees and doctoral degrees are also offered.
Vocational education and training is provided by government and privately funded technical and further education (Tafe) institutes, many of which have links with universities that allow for matriculation into bachelor degree programmes.
In many cases, students meeting the required standard can receive advanced standing upon entry into bachelor programmes along with guaranteed entry.