While the UK, the US, Australia and Canada remain the most popular study-abroad destinations worldwide, an increasing number of Hong Kong students are looking at other countries such as Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Japan and South Korea. With so many more options to choose from, how can parents make sure they choose the right place for their kids?
Early preparation for UK universities
The UK, the US, Australia and Canada are famous for their well-established education systems. If you plan to enroll in a UK university, you need to start your preparation work as early as possible. All applications to UK universities are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), which opens in September each year. Admission requirements for DSE applicants are 4-3-3 to 5**-5-5 in three of the subjects.
Applications to any UK universities should be made before sitting your DSE, otherwise it is very unlikely that you will get into any top-tier universities. If you have missed your window, you may want to look into second-tier or even new universities.
US universities accept multiple letters of recommendation
Students who have decided to enroll in US universities are required to take the US entrance exam, i.e. SAT or ACT. The maximum score for SAT is 1,600 points, and you will generally need at least 1,200 points to be considered by some of the more prominent schools. If you are targeting one of the top-tier universities such as Harvard, make sure you have 1,500 points or above.
Universities in the UK and US place great emphasis on applicants’ personal statements. As liberal arts education has long had an established place in the US higher education system, universities in the US usually accept multiple letters of recommendation from each candidate. They like to know more about the candidate’s learning experiences, level of participation and curiosity as seen through the eyes of others. On the other hand, UK universities usually look at how passionate the candidates are about the subject they have chosen, and allow the applicants to include comments from third parties in their statements.
Budget choice: Advance to US/Canada universities through community colleges
The costs of studying and living in the US/Canada may not be affordable for everyone. If you are on a tight budget, you may want to consider the “2+2” education plan, that is, two years of community college with another two years of university courses. Take Canada as an example: a basic four-year university program costs around HK$400,000 to HK$1.3 million1, but if you choose the "2+2" approach, you are looking at tuition fees of only about HK$170,000 to HK$500,000 (about 40% of the cost)2.
Lower entry requirements for Australian bachelor’s degrees
Australian universities generally have lower entry requirements for bachelor’s degrees. DSE applicants usually need to score only 3 or 4 in three to five of the subjects. Also, tuition fees are generally lower than those in the UK or the US. If your kids’ grades are somewhere in the middle, and they fail to get into any Hong Kong universities, Australia can be a great alternative. Universities in Australia usually start school in late February or early March, so students still have time to submit their application after sitting for their DSE.
Fewer Chinese students in New Zealand – The best place to improve your English
With a university system similar to that of Australia, New Zealand is another emerging study-abroad destination. There are a total of eight national universities in the country, and they usually start school in February and July each year. Other than popular subjects such as those related to environmental development and health science, they are now offering subjects such as programming and computer software applications to meet the needs of different students. By promoting their home stay program, universities in New Zealand aim to help international students integrate into local communities and adapt to the new culture.
Bachelor’s degrees in China as a stepping stone
A total of 102 universities in Mainland China have participated in the “Scheme for Admission of Hong Kong Students to Mainland Higher Education Institutions”. They admit Hong Kong students based on their DSE results and exempt them from taking the Joint Entrance Examination for Mainland Institutions. The minimum entrance requirement is the attainment of 3-3-2-2 in the four core subjects.
Despite lower tuition fees, there are a number of prestigious universities in China. For instance, Tsinghua University is ranked 25th in the QS World University Rankings in 2018. Hong Kong candidates who have been admitted through the above scheme are exempted from tuition fees. These institutions provide high-quality courses and qualifications that are widely recognized around the world. Students can consider obtaining a bachelor’s degree in China as a stepping stone, and then apply for other world-renowned universities for postgraduate studies.
Veterinary studies in Taiwan
There are more than one hundred universities in Taiwan offering various specialized disciplines such as veterinary medicine, shipbuilding, materials engineering, horticulture, and more. Among these, veterinary medicine has gained a sizable reputation in recent years. There are many ways for Hong Kong students to pursue higher education in Taiwan. Enrolment for overseas students usually starts in February and March each year, and the results are released in July.
A six-year veterinary medicine program at National Taiwan University costs approximately HK$180,000, and a similar program at National Chung Hsing University costs even less, only about HK$130,000. This is far cheaper than the six-year course offered at Hong Kong City University, which costs a total of HK$720,000. More importantly, the qualifications from both Taiwanese institutions are recognized by the Veterinary Surgeons Board of Hong Kong.
Strong achievement in science at Singaporean universities
Although there are only six universities in Singapore, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and National University of Singapore (NUS) are on a par with some of the famous universities in the UK and the US that are best known for their offerings in the fields of engineering and science. They are ranked 11th and 15th, respectively, in the QS World University Rankings in 2018, perfect for students with a strong background in science.
NTU is open for applications from August to January each year, while NUS is open from October to the end of February. Parents should take note and grab the opportunity to submit their applications if they are interested.
In addition to choosing the right subjects, finding something within the budget is equally important when making a decision. Tuition fees vary significantly across different disciplines. To provide parents with the assistance they need, Sun Life Financial has launched the Education Budget Calculator to help them manage their financial planning more effectively.
No matter what you have chosen for your kids, as parents you should make appropriate plans and financial preparations ahead of time, as well as picking the right insurance packages that are specifically designed to help international students take care of any education-related issues, such as disruption of study and education savings insurance.
1&2 Life Planning Education Bureau - General Information about Places of Study
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