Study may ease UK university entry

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 January, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 January, 2008, 12:00am

Research shows up to two-grade difference between British and Hong Kong exam results

Schools are hopeful that Hong Kong students may have a better chance of being accepted into UK universities after a study yesterday revealed it is more difficult to achieve higher grades in Hong Kong exams than in their British equivalents.

Confirming what many in education circles have long suspected, the news comes as British universities attempt to recruit local students at an education fair this weekend.

The study, by the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK Naric), compared grades awarded in the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE) and Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination (HKALE) with those achieved in the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and General Certificate of Education (GCE) A-level examinations.

It found that in the HKCEE exams, both A and B grades were the equivalent of an A* or A in the British exams. A grade C in the HKCEE was comparable to a British A or B, while a D was equal to a B or C.

In the Hong Kong A-levels, the study found that B and C grades were equivalent to a British A while a D was comparable to a British B.

The British Council has informed British universities, schools and colleges about the review and welcomed the news that some institutions were already reducing their grade requirements for Hong Kong students.

However, the council's education services director Katherine Forestier said the study did not mean all institutions would immediately reduce their grade requirements for Hong Kong students.

'It will be up to their admissions tutors to decide how they use and interpret these results,' she said.

The University of Edinburgh has already decided to recognise a one grade difference so that a Hong Kong grade B will be interpreted as a British grade A, international officer Katrina Edmunds said.

'We wish to ensure that we set our admissions policy for HKEAA students in line with the minimum entry qualifications of other academic systems.

'We [want to tell] HKEAA graduates that we value and understand their education system and encourage these students to apply,' she said, adding that the university hoped the changes would encourage more Hong Kong students to apply.

Director of admissions for the Cambridge Colleges Geoff Parks said the university was aware that a far smaller proportion of As were awarded in Hong Kong A-levels.

'However, our offers still normally ask for As in Hong Kong A-levels, because we are looking for the very best students,' Dr Parks said. 'If in doubt we will not make an offer to a UK A-level student because achieving AAA will not resolve the doubt. If in doubt about a Hong Kong A-level student we may well make the offer because AAA in that system would be much more meaningful.'

A University of Oxford spokeswoman said the university regularly examined qualifications and discrepancies were taken into account.

Local schools welcomed the findings and were optimistic that it could lead to more students being accepted into British universities.

Deborah Cremins, counsellor of further studies at St Paul's Co-educational College said the report confirmed what the school had long known.

She said students who sat both the Hong Kong and British A-levels typically received one or two grades higher in the British exams.

St Paul's Convent School's careers adviser Lydia Lam Lu-fung confirmed that students who sat the Hong Kong and British A-levels usually received at least one grade higher in the British exams. She said if universities took the results into account it could lead to more students being accepted.

Diocesan Boys School's dean of students Mark Rosario said some universities who were familiar with Hong Kong's education system already made allowances for the grade differences, but the study would put students on a level playing field.

The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority welcomed the study's findings.

'I think the results are very encouraging because it shows that we have been very vigorous in the grading of our students and we are maintaining very strict academic standards,' said director of development and educational assessment Thomas Cheung Kwong-yuen.

Dr Cheung said the results would provide British universities with more information about Hong Kong students.

'I would hope that the British universities will definitely honour our local examination results but it's difficult to predict whether it would lead to more students going to British universities because entry can depend on a large number of other factors,' he said.