Does the University of Hong Kong lack cultural diversity?

By Bidhya Shrestha, University of Hong Kong

Some say HK university campuses need more ethnic representation - but they mean European students; this narrow view of diversity is ignorant at best and bigoted at worst

By Bidhya Shrestha, University of Hong Kong |

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Diversity should not be viewed as solely including European representatives.

As a Nepalese student studying in the University of Hong Kong (HKU), I was shocked to see an SCMP article by Teele Rebane, an Estonian undergraduate, calling HKU an institution that has a “lack of diversity”. What does she mean by “diversity”? What factors does she take into account when slamming the university with a lack of it?

Diversity should not be viewed as solely including European representatives. Hong Kong is full of people from all across South Asia. The idea that only European representation matters stems from cultural ignorance and bigotry that places other races outside this criteria as inferior and insignificant.

“HKU is far from diverse,” Rebane wrote. “It caters to about 17,000 under­graduates yet I was the only full-time European student in the class of 2021.”

Again, I have to say that diversity is more than just European representation. It stems from a heterogeneous community that’s full of people from different races, nationalities, religions, and cultures. By saying there is a lack of diversity at HKU because there is a lack of European students, Rebane is negating students like myself, and many others from different countries.

According to the 2016-17 Global Admissions Profile, which collates statistics on HKU, more than 16,000 students were international students from overseas. In the 2017/18 student profile of HKU, there were 3,682 international undergraduates (excluding exchange students), with one third of them coming from other Asian countries, and 312 coming from European countries. In light of these figures, how can someone say there is no diversity? I agree that there is a lack of European students, but is that what diversity is all about? This is the main issue that the article fails to address – that diversity is inclusive of people from all over the world, not just Europe.

One thing that this article does shed light on, however, is that diversity does not equate inclusion. It doesn’t mean there is automatic social cohesion within the student population. There is no denying that there is a language and culture barrier between Chinese students and non-Chinese students – regardless of whether they are local or non-local. This lack of inclusion applies to Hong Kong society in general, not just university.

Yes, there is a lack of European representation at HKU but there is no lack in the number of students from other countries. It is simply wrong to omit our existence. I am one of many non-Chinese students who belong to a community that makes HKU diverse.

Guess what? We, non-European students, do exist.

Edited by Ginny Wong

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