The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China (HKSAR) is at the gateway of the Pearl River Delta and Guangdong Province in China. The population of Hong Kong is over six million people. Hong Kong's ninety-nine year history as a British colony ended on July 1, 1997 when Hong Kong and the New Territories were returned to Chinese sovereignty. Hong Kong retains a high degree of autonomy in all areas except foreign affairs and defense. Its present free market system and lifestyle, including education, are to remain unchanged until 2047.
Hong Kong's historic role as Asia's major economic broker has been challenged by Singapore to the south and Shanghai to the north. The 1997 Asian economic meltdown impacted Hong Kong just as the British were changing the guard for the last time. A few years later SARS arrived with a further negative impact on Hong Kong's economy.
The Hong Kong education system, overseen by the Education Bureau and with roots in the British examination system, has restricted access to higher education. For example, since 1994, only a total of 14,500 places have been available for first year students at universities supported by the Hong Kong government. As a result the government has proposed short and long term education reforms.
Education reforms have included changing the medium of instruction (MOI) from English to mostly Chinese at the secondary school level, modifying the curriculum, expanding IT in education, creating additional educational opportunities for secondary school leavers and other management issues. Proposed reforms have included relying less on assessment by examination and restructuring the education ladder to six years primary, three years lower secondary, three years senior secondary and four years tertiary.
To expand educational opportunities for secondary school leavers, the Hong Kong government provided funds in 2002 to both public and private providers to establish associate degree programs on a fee-paying basis. Scholarship assistance was also available for students. A major goal for local students who enter the associate degree program is to gain admission to a Hong Kong university. Other students enroll in off-shore ordinary bachelor degree programs through the continuing education unit(s) of Hong Kong universities. A few apply for transfer credit to US four-year institutions.
Hong Kong has one educational system/district that is "governed" by two complementary but powerful governmental agencies including the University Grants Committee which has financial oversight of tertiary education as well as the Education Bureau that oversees the development of education policy at all levels.
The academic year of post-secondary institutions is from September to April or May. The majority of the programs operate on a two-semester system, while some programs are on a three-semester system. Please consult the individual institution's website for specific information.
The language of Instruction at most institutions, depending on the program, will be either English or Chinese.