Academy for Performing Arts hampered by lack of accommodation

Performing arts college is keen to diversify and welcome more overseas students but lack of accommodation is hampering its plans

PUBLISHED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 28 June, 2013, 5:13am

A lack of accommodation is holding back plans for the Academy for Performing Arts to bring in more students from outside Hong Kong.

The academy, which saw a big rise in the number of non-local students this academic year - including more than double the number of mainlanders - wants to proceed further down the path of internationalisation.

"But the biggest challenge is accommodation," its director, Professor Adrian Walter, said.

"We don't have accommodation at the moment."

The institution is seeking ways to provide beds for overseas students as well as give local students some on-campus living experience. It might lease property near its Wan Chai campus as a stopgap.

The number of non-Hong Kong undergraduates at the academy has been rising steadily but took a big leap between the 2011/12 and 2012/13 academic years.

While the total number of students went up from 469 to 626, the number of non-Hong Kong students rose from 49 to 77, including 47 mainlanders compared with 23 the previous year.

Even with the increase, Walter said, non-locals accounted for only about 12 per cent and could expand to 20 per cent.

Although the degree-granting academy is funded by the Home Affairs Bureau, this would keep it in line with the limit set by the University Grants Committee (UGC), which funds other tertiary institutions.

UGC policy stipulates that overseas students in institutions it funds can make up no more than 20 per cent of those studying sub-degree, degree or taught postgraduate programmes. It also stipulates that no more than 4 per cent of UGC-funded places can go to non-locals, with the remaining 16 per cent needing funding from other sources.

Walter said Hong Kong was attractive for international students, including those from outside Asia, while overseas students enriched the learning environment for locals.

But the academy would need 200 to 300 beds to accommodate the non-locals and provide on-campus experience for Hong Kong students.

He said it had commissioned a study on building and planning needs in the coming 10 years. It also needed to project the growth of student numbers and the optimal number in future.

In the meantime, leasing properties within 30 minutes of Wan Chai might be an option, but no firm plans had been made, Walter said, adding that the academy would need to raise funds to support overseas students living in Hong Kong.

Non-local students who graduated yesterday said they enjoyed their experience but found the city expensive.

Swede Lina Berglund Jansson, who graduated in set and costume design at the School of Theatre and Entertainment Arts, said she came to Hong Kong because it was an English-speaking city and yet foreign. She found living in the city was certainly not cheap.

"I used to live in Clear Water Bay but now I live in Chungking Mansions. It's iconic, cheap, and it has character," she said of the ageing Tsim Sha Tsui flophouse.

Mainland music student Nan Jia, who also graduated yesterday, said Hong Kong offered more opportunities in music than the mainland, but she also found it expensive. "Thankfully I've had a full scholarship to help out on that," she said.