HK ranks lower than Singapore in Oxbridge admissions, says study

But experts say acceptance rate not indication of poor academic results, calling for more resources to help students prepare for admissions process

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 December, 2016, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 December, 2016, 6:26pm

Hong Kong-based applicants to two of the top UK universities fared worse than those from Singapore, a study has found, with education consultants calling for more resources in schools to aid students, and better preparation bythem.

The study, conducted by education consultancy Norton House and commissioned by the International Chinese Academy Education Foundation, which conducts education research, looked at the admission acceptance rates of students in Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore and South Korea to the University of Cambridge and University of Oxford over five years.

While the average acceptance rate to Cambridge for Hong Kong students from 2011 to 2015 –16.12 per cent – is higher than the non-EU average of 11.56 per cent, it ranks below that of Singapore, whose rate is 17.39 per cent. But the Hong Kong average is higher than that of China (13.94 per cent) and South Korea (12.34 per cent).

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With an admission acceptance rate of 12.7 per cent to Oxford, Hong Kong’s ranking slips further down to third, behind Singapore at 15.6 per cent and mainland China at 12.96 per cent. But the city’s students still fared better than the non-EU average of 9.54 per cent.

Dr Aaron Lau Kam-yin, head of admission coaching at Norton House, said the city’s performance was “not ideal”, considering “Hong Kong has one of the best education standards in the world”.

But he ruled out academic results as a factor, instead attributing Hong Kong’s relatively poorer performance to the lack of support from schools and insufficient preparation by students for the admission process.

“Hong Kong only has a small number of students applying to Oxbridge as the majority of them do not know they have the ability to do so,” Lau said.

He also said that Singapore provided more resources to help students enter the two universities. For example, some pre-tertiary institutions in Singapore offer a humanities programme with tutors who offer university placement and scholarship advice to students, with schools like Hwa Chong Institution and Raffles Junior College among the schools sending high numbers of students to the two UK universities.

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HKIES Overseas Education Centre consultant Jessie Tang Miu-yin said that more mainland students enter Oxbridge compared with their Hong Kong counterparts as they have better planning for their future, and preparation on the subject they want to major in.

“Hong Kong students and parents tend to focus on good grades and speaking good English, but the two universities also look at the applicants’ planning for the future,” she said.

“For example, Hong Kong students tend to not do so well in interviews as they only have textbook answers rather than real-world knowledge.”

Lau urged schools to allocate more resources into future planning for students, such as by hiring full-time teachers to help them with admissions to top universities.

The foundation has initiatives in place with top institutions such as Oxford and Cambridge to conduct educational research and has begun significant annual donations to establish scholarships at these schools.