Studying in Hong Kong

Study in Hong Kong
Updated 2023-01-28 18:39

A dynamic, international city and meeting point for different cultures, Hong Kong is also one of the world's leading financial centers and a diverse study destination. Cosmopolitan and a fusion of many cultures, it is also a shopper's paradise and has excellent international cuisine, colorful nightlife, and vibrant festivals and fairs.

Why study in Hong Kong?

There are many reasons why you may be considering studying abroad. New experiences, direct exposure to a different culture, lots of opportunities to learn a foreign language — just to name a few.

But here are some Hong Kong-specific reasons to add to your list.

Hong Kong is an academic powerhouse

Hong Kong is an education hub of high-performing universities and world-class research — the QS World University Ranking 2023 lists seven Hong Kong universities, four of which rank among the top 55 worldwide! It has a large and diverse student community that includes nearly 30% of international students, many of whom come from mainland China. QS Best Student Cities ranked Hong Kong in 12th place in 2023.

Hong Kong is where East meets West

Besides its strength in higher education, the mix of Eastern culture and Western influences as a British territory for over 150 years certainly attracts attention. Next to the skyscrapers, you'll find ancient Chinese architecture. Moreover, mainland China is easily accessible from Hong Kong.

There are lots of study programs in English

Hong Kong universities offer a wide range of studies in English, and short courses in Mandarin are available. You'll need to comply with the university's English language requirements as part of the application process. Some universities may require a second language qualification. There are usually several ways how to do this, and you will need to check with your chosen university:

  • Take a language proficiency test such as IELTS or TOEFL. Check in advance which certificates are eligible at the university of your choice. To get the best chance of acceptance, you will need high scores.
  • Provide proof of previous qualification to confirm your level of English or that you meet possible English language exemptions.

Leading Hong Kong universities

Hong Kong is home to 16 universities. The city's most popular universities are the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and the City University of Hong Kong (also known as CityU).

University of Hong Kong (HKU)

University of Hong Kong (HKU), informally known as Hong Kong University, is Hong Kong's oldest university with over 100 years of history.

It is home to an international community of students and staff, including 30,000 students, of which 9,000 are from well over 100 countries, and some of the best professors in the world. 111 professors rank in the top 1% of scientists globally, and 60% of HKU professors are from outside Hong Kong.

You'll get the chance to learn from some of the world's top scholars, which also reflects itself in the high student employment rates of over 99%!

Six of HKU's subjects are placed among the top 10 worldwide, with the dentistry program ranking first worldwide for two years in a row. HKU is also renowned for its strength in accounting and finance, biomedicine, humanities, education, law, linguistics, and political & social science.

There are 10 faculties covering 70 major areas of study, with English as the teaching language and an international focus from an Asian perspective. The vibrant and modern campus maintains exceptional academic standards, pioneering research and collaborations with more than 340 leading universities in 43 countries. With HKU as your base, you'll get to go to universities like Cambridge, MIT, or Harvard, as they offer numerous opportunities for student exchange programs, undergraduate research programs, service learning projects, field trips, or internships. If this catches your interest, check out the HKU website for admissions.

HKU takes 21st place in QS World University rankings of 2023.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

Established in 1991, HKUST is a young and ambitious elite research university located in Clear Water Bay peninsula. It offers degrees in science, engineering, technology, business and management studies, as well as the humanities and social sciences. It is home to 14,000 students spanning more than 70 countries over five continents, including 38% international students. HKUST maintains partnerships with 250 universities worldwide and is renowned for cutting-edge research and attracting distinguished academics and influential thinkers.

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology receives international plaudits, reaping numerous honors and accolades: according to QS World University Rankings of 2023, it is the 40th best university in the world.

The School of Engineering placed 14th among the world's top 200 computer science and information system universities, and its Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA (EMBA) program topped the Financial Times EMBA global rankings seven times in the past ten years.

At HKUST, there are 38 faculty members who are Fellows of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), six Chinese Academy of Sciences academicians, and nine faculty members who also are entered in the National Science and Technology Programs Expert Database.

Feel free to find out more directly on the university's website.

Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)

CUK is more than five decades old and is home to one of the largest and most scenic campuses in Hong Kong, with modern learning facilities based on a collegiate system, as well as cultural, sports, and social amenities. There are nine colleges with non-formal learning opportunities, offering some 74 major and 71 minor programs across 8 faculties and 58 schools/departments. It is home to 18,000 students, including 27% of international students from over 40 countries.

Through its geographical location, traditions and ties, the CUHK excels in the study of Chinese language, culture, and economics but also in other specialties such as engineering (electronic, information, automation, etc.). Its Business School, Law School, and Medical School are renowned training grounds and research centers. Research priorities are China studies, translational medicine, information and automation technology as well as environment and sustainability. For example, it is a world leader in non-invasive prenatal testing theory and method, biotechnological improvement of rice strains, and network coding theory that revolutionized data transmission and network applications. It is associated with four Nobel laureates and is also Hong Kong's only university with recipients of the Nobel Prize, Fields medal, Turing Award and Veblen Prize. Following the QS University Rankings, it placed among the top 50 worldwide. You can find out more regarding admissions at the CUHK website.

CUHK is in 38th place in QS World University Ranking in 2023.

City University of Hong Kong (also known as CityU)

Established in 1984 as City Polytechnic of Hong Kong, CityU gained full university status in 1994, located in the Kowloon area. To date, it is a leading global teaching and research university with more than 10,000 students, including 30% of international students.

Its three colleges and four schools offer degrees in business, law, science and engineering, energy and environment, creative media and social sciences, also maintaining a strong reputation for sports. It is associated with 38 research centers and offers dual degree programs with renowned international universities, for example, Columbia University.

CityU ranks 54th in the QS World University Rankings in 2023, with the College of Business particularly doing well for its cutting-edge research. For more information, check out the CityU website.

Besides these four top universities, three more Hong Kong institutions feature in the QS World University Rankings of 2023: The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Baptist University and Lingnan University.

How to apply to a Hong Kong university

International applicants should have completed twelve years of general education and hold a recognized secondary (high school) qualification such as A-level or equivalent and a minimum level of English proficiency.

Additional language qualifications may be needed, for example, at HKU.

Individual degrees may require subject background or higher entry prerequisites, ability tests, minimum entry marks or grades.

Note that as selection procedures and requirements depend on the university and program of study, it is best to check with the university of your choice.

Generally, the applicant's educational background and academic achievements are considered, and in case you are invited to attend an interview, your performance will also be taken into account.

You'll need to apply for a student visa, which normally takes six to eight weeks or even longer to process, so it's best to get started as soon as possible. Once accepted by the university of your choice, it may act as a local sponsor and will usually guide you through the process. Check with the Hong Kong embassy in your home country and the Hong Kong Immigration Department.

After you have provided the required documents and the application form online (ID995A) and the student visa has been granted, the university will forward the self-adhesive visa/entry permit label on your behalf to affix it to your passport. It will be validated upon your arrival in Hong Kong. When presenting it to immigration officials at the checkpoint, you will receive a landing slip, which acts as proof of your stay in Hong Kong.

Exchange programs and scholarships in Hong Kong

Many universities in Hong Kong offer scholarships, residence grants, or caring student grants — it's best to check with the university of your choice for more information.

The HKSAR Government, a number of public or private organizations, and post-secondary institutions help international students to finance their studies.

Some scholarships are solely available for international students, while others are offered on a competitive basis, regardless of their residency status or nationality. Check out the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government Scholarship, the Self-financing Post-Secondary Education Fund, or the Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme.

Student life in Hong Kong

Cost of living

The average cost of living in Hong Kong is estimated to be around HK$45,000 per student for 10 months, including meals, study expenses such as books, transport and laundry etc. – that's excluding tuition and accommodation fees. Rent is known to be exorbitantly costly; however, general expenses for eating out and transport remain low.

Tuition fees for international students are somewhere in the mid-range, less than in the US but tend to be higher than in France.

Students can take up part-time work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week or summer jobs regardless of hours or location. In addition, student visa holders in degree studies of longer than one year can also take on short-term internships.

Student housing in Hong Kong

Most universities guarantee student accommodation in a single or shared room, some of which may be off campus.

On-campus accommodation in student residences or student hostels is the cheapest option, with prices ranging from HK$ 5,600 to 15,000 per semester, while off-campus accommodation tends to be much more expensive, starting at HK$ 10,000 a month, excluding charges. Demand for student hostels is huge, and you're advised to apply early if you wish to live on campus.

What to do in Hong Kong in your free time

Students know how to have fun in Hong Kong — be it karaoke, hanging out with friends in hot-pot restaurants and bars, or going for a hike. It may be hard to believe, but Hong Kong has plenty of national parks for outdoor adventures, such as hiking, cycling, and rock climbing. Hong Kong's excellent public transport makes it easy to access even the more traditional markets and lifestyles outside the city.

There are many festivals all year round, with lion and dragon dances, carnivals, parades and fireworks. Chinese New Year is one of the biggest festivals in Hong Kong.

Hong Kong's location is an excellent base from which to discover mainland China (which is just a short train ride away) as well as much of East Asia.

Local meals you should taste at least once

The wonderful world of Cantonese cuisine and full choice of Asian and western food will make your trip worthwhile — cheap yet good quality food with all its delicious dim sums, fresh seafood, wanton noodles, roast meats, congees, etc. Check out the Hong Kong cafes known as Cha Chaan Teng; they sell almost everything from congee, curry, steak, toast, instant noodles, and barbecued meat to desserts.

Useful links:

Hong Kong University (HKU)

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST)

Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)

City University of Hong Kong (CityU)

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.