Lower tuition fees at Hong Kong universities may tempt UK students

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 March, 2013, 5:03am

Soaring tuition fees are leading more British students to look abroad and many could be tempted to come to Hong Kong - if they knew what the city's universities had to offer.

That's according to students contemplating coming to the city in the belief that it will work out cheaper than studying at home.

Mikaela Belcher, a 17-year-old high school student from Dorset, southwest England, found the lower cost of student life in Hong Kong "fantastic" during a taster summer course at Polytechnic University last summer.

"The courses looked brilliant - easily one of the best, if not the best," she said, comparing the university to others she looked at. "Another benefit of studying in Hong Kong is its being such an international hub."

She is now hoping to return to Hong Kong after she completes her education in England, after receiving a conditional offer to study law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.

While Hong Kong students who turn down a subsidised local university place to study abroad face bills 10 times higher than in the city, it's a different story for the likes of Belcher, who are suffering after the British government decided two years ago to charge students the full cost of a university education.

"In the UK, I face starting my [post-university] life with a debt of about £50,000 [HK$583,000] in tuition fees and living costs." In Hong Kong she will face a tuition fee of about £12,000 a year.

"Even the accommodation in student halls - which I was worried would be exorbitantly priced - is very reasonable. And there are generous scholarships available for international students," said Belcher, who got the chance to come last year through a contest organised by the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Offices.

But she said few were likely to follow her. "Very little information about tertiary education in Hong Kong seems to be given out in schools," said Belcher.

According to the Education Bureau, only 544 UK students applied to study in Hong Kong last year - just 26 of them were enrolled.

By contrast, Hongkongers are the second largest source of foreign students for the UK, with 3,916 students accepted by British universities last year, up 18 per cent year on year.

Belcher feels many British students are unaware that they can study in Hong Kong without speaking Chinese. "I don't think that people realise that nearly every course in Hong Kong is taught in English and to an excellent standard," Belcher said.

Summaya Mughal, a Nottingham student who spent two weeks studying accountancy at Chinese University, agreed that language was a worry. "I feel these concerns can be overcome with more information provided … via the students' sixth-form colleges, careers departments and through other students who have studied in Hong Kong."