The unfortunate reality for Hong Kong students is that far more of them are eligible for admission to our city's eight government-subsidised universities than there are available places. Competition is especially fierce this year with a 7 per cent increase in the number who have achieved the minimum Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education score and a 738 per cent rise in the amount of candidates from outside the school system. Fewer than one in two will gain entry to an undergraduate degree programme from among the 15,000 places available. For those unable to afford overseas study, there will be disappointment and deep soul-searching.
Competition is why 26 of the 28,418 students who met the basic entrance requirements have already been disqualified. A review of papers by the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority found they had plagiarised Chinese language, history and liberal studies projects. Cheating is a serious matter and every case has to be properly followed up to send a clear message. But getting good marks and being honest alone do not guarantee a university place. Students also have to undergo the entrance interview and consider their interests and the requirements of the programme they are applying for.
In a matter of weeks they will know if they have succeeded. But for those who do not attain their goals, there will still be a world of opportunity. The door to a successful career does not close simply because of an inability to get into university.
Exams can be retaken and universities can give special consideration to those who have just missed out, but there are other choices. There are private courses, associate degrees among them, and vocational training. Hong Kong's free economy gives special room for those with an entrepreneurial bent and drive to succeed. Our city's shift from an industrial society to a service-based one was in large part due to the role of our higher education institutions and our future still lies in their work. But it also has to be remembered that many citizens have made a success of their lives without a university education.