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Hong Kong's new Diploma of Secondary Education gets thumbs up from Oxbridge

British universities happy to accept Hong Kong's alternative to A-levels - with one exception


British universities are embracing Hong Kong's Diploma of Secondary Education "with open arms".

Oxford and Cambridge are among the universities that have already confirmed offers to students who sat the new exams this year, the British Council says.

"UK universities are welcoming DSE students with open arms," the council's head of education and society, Sophia Chan-Combrink, said yesterday. "Even Oxbridge has been able to make confirmed offers to DSE students. This marks a huge step in Hong Kong's educational reform."

However at the British Council's Education UK exhibition held yesterday, a student was told by representatives from one university that his combined science DSE - a new subject under the new curriculum - was not admissible.

As students and parents were scrambling to put in last-minute applications at the event, which continues today, Janson Lau Ka-ki, 18, learned that combined science, one of his seven subjects, would not be accepted by the University of East Anglia.

"I showed them my results and they immediately said they wouldn't consider that subject," he said.


The DSE exams are taken a year earlier than the A-levels they are replacing, so this meant they were run in tandem with the last year of A-levels. And the double set of students leaving secondary school has led to a surge in the number of Hong Kong students seeking undergraduate places, both here and in Britain.

Figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that by the end of June, 6,041 Hong Kong students had applied for courses in Britain, 37 per cent more than last year, and the number is expected to rise before applications close on August 31.

The general reception from British universities is allaying fears that the qualification would not be seen as rigorous enough compared to the better-known A-levels.

British colleges have also not raised any objections to the fact most DSE students will be entering university a year younger than their British counterparts, where A-levels remain in force.


Chan-Combrink said the DSE was inducted into the admission service's list of accepted diplomas after negotiations between the council and universities in Britain. Top universities, such as Oxford and St Andrews, offered a general entry requirement of three level 5s for DSE students. The highest grade attainable is 5**.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: New diploma gets thumbs up from Oxbridge