Get the best of British education
Andrea Li and Richard Watt
Britain has long been a popular destination for HKCEE graduates to continue their education. Most of these students go on to study at universities in Britain and all students, regardless of academic ability, are well-catered for. Katherine Forestier, director of education, science and society at the British Council Hong Kong, gives the details on studying in Britain.
What pathways are available to HKCEE graduates to study in Britain?
Students can choose between the private and state sectors. In the private sector, there are more than 1,200 independent schools and dozens of post-16 private colleges to choose from, the latter often catering specifically for international students. Many Hong Kong students are also entering private colleges linked to universities, providing a direct pathway to university for those who satisfactorily complete the international foundation course.
In the state sector, they can choose between state sixth form colleges and state further education colleges, which are both open to international students. The state colleges charge international fees for those not holding British or EU passports. But these are significantly cheaper than fees for private schools and colleges. If the student holds a full British or EU passport, excluding British National (Overseas) passports state schools (boarding or day) can also be considered. State schools offer free tuition. Parents only need to pay boarding fees for state boarding schools. Some state schools, such as Shaftesbury School, are actively recruiting in Hong Kong at the moment.
Hong Kong students have four key programme options that all lead to university. The more academic GCE A-levels or International Baccalaureate Diploma (IB) programmes; vocational BTEC and OCR diplomas, certificates or awards; and one-year pre-university foundation courses designed for international students.
State sixth form and further education colleges offer a range of academic and vocational courses. Many Hong Kong students enrol to study three traditional A-levels, but the vocational options should also be considered for those better suited to this pathway. Some offer international foundation courses.
What are the usual prerequisite requirements in terms of academic qualifications and language skills?
To gain a place on an A-level or IB Diploma course, students normally need to have passed five HKCEE subjects. For BTEC or OCR national diploma, certificate and award courses the entry requirements will be lower. A minimum score of five in the IELTS test or equivalent may be required.
If students do not meet the entry requirements, particularly for English language, they may be asked to complete an English preparation course ranging from one term to a year. Students should clarify with the institution whether they need to do this before enrolling.
What is involved in the application process? Is it too late for HKCEE graduates to be applying for entry for next month?
No, it is not too late. Many schools and colleges are still recruiting. Students should contact agents or admission staff as soon as possible to discuss their options. They should then complete application forms. If meeting the agent or institution representative in Hong Kong, they will need to show their original HKCEE results certificates, or send copies to Britain. They will also need to show their original certificates during their appointment at the British consulate visa office for a visa.
What can parents expect to spend on an education? Are there any sources of scholarships or help with fees?
State sixth form and further education colleges charge international tuition fees ranging between GBP4,000 (HK$50,856) and GBP8,000 a year. Independent schools and colleges charge between GBP15,000 and GBP25,000 including board and accommodation. Where that isn't included, students should allow GBP630 a month for living costs outside London, and GBP800 a month in London. State boarding schools charge GBP4,700 to GBP11,200 for boarding. In all state schools and colleges, tuition is free for those holding British and EU passports (excluding British Nationals (Overseas)).
What are the visa requirements?
Students need to apply for Tier 4 student visas under the new points based system. If over 16 and under 18, they can apply under the adult or child categories. If 18 and over, they must apply as adults.
To obtain the necessary points for a visa, they must have a valid visa letter confirming their offer and other details from an education institution licensed by the British government to enrol international students, and meet the minimum financial requirements.
It is essential that students understand the new visa requirements and complete the on-line application form carefully - any inaccuracies or inconsistencies in the visa letter will cause delays.