Hong Kong parents continue to send their children to British boarding schools for A-levels in preparation for a British university, but many also use it as a route back into Hong Kong's highly competitive universities, a new British Council study has found.
Previous research showed that Hong Kong families opted for Britain if they could not get into university in Hong Kong. As in the past, most families applying to boarding schools in Britain use it as a stepping stone to a UK university application - only 3.4 per cent of those who attend UK boarding schools, leave the country for university education.
"This is evidence of parents sending their children abroad to undertake widely recognised secondary qualifications in lieu of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education," according to the council's just-released report, Parent Perspectives: Sending Hong Kong Students Abroad for School.
But of those who leave the UK for university, 15 per cent head to Hong Kong - the number two destination after the US for those not intending to stay in Britain.
About 12 per cent of the 204 Hong Kong parents surveyed said they wanted their children to return to Hong Kong for university education - indicating that they intend to apply through the international student route. "This route can be seen to be less competitive than the Hong Kong local route," says Zainab Malik, research manager, British Council in Hong Kong.
The academic quality of boarding schools, rather than specific location, and access to their university of choice are still the prime motivations for heading to Britain between the ages of 13 and 17, while most say 16 is the best age to make the transfer. This shows that opting for A-levels abroad is still a "solely university-focused sentiment", says Malik.
Hong Kong sends the most secondary school students to Britain globally, although this number has fallen slightly, by 5.3 per cent, in the past year. At present, 5,732 students from Hong Kong are enrolled at Independent Schools Commission-registered UK boarding schools.
Britain was the most popular choice by far, with a few opting for the US and Australia.
While UK universities continue to be popular with Hong Kong families, the British Council has found in a separate report that the era of large numbers of Indian students heading for British universities may be over, and the numbers may have peaked.
The just released survey, Inside India: A New Status Quo, found that even as the Indian economy continues to grow and incomes rise, the number of Indian students looking to study abroad will not rise.
This is because India has "many aspiring world-class higher education institutions competing for globally ranked positions alongside those in the UK and the US and a far smaller proportion of households that can afford to pay for overseas education in an increasingly competitive recruitment market", the report says.
"Higher education in India is passing through a phase of unprecedented expansion, marked by an explosion in the volume of students, a substantial expansion in the number of institutions and a quantum jump in the level of public funding."
Within India the number of students studying at postgraduate level increased 47 per cent from 1.8 million in 2009 to 2.7 million in 2010.
"Based on analysis of previous outbound mobility statistics for Indian students, the assumption was that this would continue," says Elizabeth Shepherd, British Council research manager in Hong Kong. However, "for students in India the number one choice of destination is India", she says.
A 25 per cent fall in Indians studying in Britain last year had been blamed on the UK's tightened visa policies, including the end of post-study work visas for most students, and on the depreciating rupee which added about US$10,000 to the cost of studying in Britain, Australia or the US, according the council's own conservative estimates.