Scheme exempting Hong Kong students from entrance exams into mainland universities extended to seven more schools

Move brings total number of institutions across border and under special arrangement to 109, but competition still stiff, especially for elite art schools

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 October, 2018, 8:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 08 October, 2018, 10:34pm

To “relieve pressure” on students, Hong Kong high school graduates can apply to seven more mainland universities – including three top music and art academies in Beijing – starting from next year without taking a separate entrance exam, education authorities have announced.

The latest move will bring the total number of universities from across the border under the special arrangement for local students to 109.

Although the requirements to qualify for the scheme were considered to be low, art students who were successfully enrolled said competition was fierce, and while they had wide access to resources, there were also limits to themes they could explore.

The specific admission conditions of each university would be disclosed at the Mainland Higher Education Expo held in the city on December 1 and 2, according to Hong Kong’s Education Bureau.

Jointly established by the bureau and China’s Ministry of Education in 2012, the special admission arrangement allows Hong Kong students who attain a total score of 10 or more in the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) examination to apply for a place in selected mainland universities.

The mark is two points less than the lowest requirement set for a publicly funded university in Hong Kong.

How Hong Kong residents bypass daunting China university entrance exam to secure places at elite schools

Under the arrangement, eligible students are exempted from taking the Joint Entrance Exam for Mainland Institutions (JEEMI), which includes five designated subjects but with syllables covered that could differ from the DSE.

Intended for students from Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and foreign countries, the JEEMI is recognised by more than 300 universities on the mainland.

The special arrangement would work by “relieving [students’] pressure and enabling them to concentrate on their preparation for the [DSE] examination,” a bureau spokesman said.

By April, more than 3,200 students had signed up for this year’s scheme – 20 per cent more than last year – and they accounted for about 35 per cent of some 9,200 Hongkongers in total seeking a place in mainland universities, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Meanwhile, nearly 2,600 students – almost 28 per cent of the total – had registered for the JEEMI, according to Xinhua.

Competition for Hong Kong public university places hots up as DSE exam results announced

Between 2012 and 2019, the number of mainland institutions under the special arrangement almost doubled from 63 to 109, with the Central Academy of Music, Central Academy of Fine Arts and Central Academy of Drama as stars among the seven latest newcomers.

Founded between 78 and 100 years ago, the three academies, managed by the Ministry of Education, represent the pinnacle of mainstream art education on the mainland.

Illustrious alumni include China’s first lady Peng Liyuan, painter and author Chen Danqing, director Zhang Yimou and actress Gong Li.

Anthea Chau, 20, a Hongkonger studying at the Central Academy of Drama, said she had to go through three “professional exams” after passing the JEEMI when she applied last year.

“About 90 per cent of candidates were eliminated in the first exam,” Chau recalled. “Another 50 to 70 per cent were left out in the second round.

“The school wants people who are really into film production.”

Ellie Ling, 22, a Hong Kong postgraduate student at the Central Academy of Music, said in professional exams for the school’s violin department, half of the 150 applicants washed out in the first round and only about 30 made it to the final test.

Chau, who got a total score of 12 in her DSE exam in 2016, said she wished the academy had joined the special arrangement earlier.

The controversial Chinese college entrance exam opening doors at more American universities

“I wasn’t admitted by the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and I didn’t want to apply for a sub-degree programme in the city,” Chau said, referring to courses which provide an alternative route into local universities or can lead to stand-alone qualifications to take into the job market.

“So I spent a year, and about HK$100,000 on courses that prepared me for the JEEMI and the professional exams in 2017.

“Though students from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan were exempted from classes on political ideologies, teachers would suggest that we do not include certain themes or images, in case our productions for festivals got rejected by the academy,” Chau said.

The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts welcomed the new development. “The scheme will provide Hong Kong students who are interested in broadening their experience in the performing arts with more opportunities,” a spokeswoman said.