Students play it safe by going to UK universities

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am


More local students are going to university in Britain, thanks to the changes in Hong Kong's education system.

The first batch of students under the new '3+ 3+ 4' academic structure - involving six years of secondary school and four years of primary education - will enter university next year, but some of them are uncertain about their future and regard overseas universities as their safe haven.

Among them is Karen Tam, a Form Five local student who has decided to seek a place to study in Britain rather than entering her final year of school in the city.

'I'm not sure whether I can do a good job in the exam to secure a local degree under the new system,' said Tam. She would otherwise sit for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination - the new public examination in which students will seek to secure places at local universities - next year. If Tam is admitted to a UK university this September, she will probably be able to complete her bachelor's degree one year earlier than her friends in Hong Kong, as most British undergraduate courses run for only three years.

Applications to British universities have increased by 18.5 per cent over the same period last year, and by 31 per cent since 2009, according to figures released by UCAS, Britain's Universities and Colleges Admission Service, ahead of the British Council's Education UK exhibition, which is taking place this weekend.

'Often, when there is a major education change, parents and students look for alternatives,' said Katherine Forestier, director of education and society at the British Council.

She expected applications to rise by even more next year, when the revamped education system will see both Form Six students under the new system and Form Seven students under the old system jostling for places at university.

'Whether students are studying for HKALE [Hong Kong A-Level Examination - the current university entry exam] or HKDSE, now is the time they should be planning their applications for next year,' Forestier said. 'The earlier you submit your application, the greater the chance you will have of securing offers for your chosen courses.'

The two-day UK education fair began yesterday, and will open today from 1 pm to 7 pm at Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

A total of 60 institutions will give advice to students looking for last-minute places, as well as those planning early for the next academic year.