Hong Kong must maintain its distinctive status and advantages to create a strong impetus for growth, unlock enormous creativity and the development potential of Hong Kong society, and expand its exchanges with the rest of the world, as President Xi Jinping highlighted in his speech at the 25th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the motherland on July 1. Education will be a crucial key to achieving such a goal.
Hong Kong’s reputable tertiary education has long been attracting nonlocal students to study and embark on a unique life and career journey in the city. Leveraging the strengths in the higher-education sector, Hong Kong can cultivate diversified and international talents that facilitate Hong Kong’s and the nation’s development. An expanded talent pool and an enhanced distribution of talents can boost Hong Kong’s competitiveness and drive its economy, making a greater contribution to national development in the long run.
In this regard, “competing for talents” is one of the ambitious proposals laid out in Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu’s first Policy Address. Measures include launching the Top Talent Pass Scheme, suspending the annual quota of the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme, and allowing eligible incoming talents to apply for a refund of the extra Stamp Duty paid for the purchase of a residential property in Hong Kong upon becoming permanent residents.
At present, many industries are facing shortages of talents. In my view, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government should adopt a multipronged approach to “expand the radar” in search of suitable talents. We should leverage our high-quality tertiary education to draw more nonlocal students to come to study and develop their careers. … In light of a more complicated global situation, mainland students’ zest and eagerness to study in Hong Kong has risen significantly in the past couple of years
At present, many industries are facing shortages of talents. In my view, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government should adopt a multipronged approach to “expand the radar” in search of suitable talents. We should leverage our high-quality tertiary education to draw more nonlocal students to come to study and develop their careers.
More nonlocal students
in self-financing institutions
Hong Kong is the second-largest destination for mainland students to pursue postsecondary education. In light of a more complicated global situation, mainland students’ zest and eagerness to study in Hong Kong has risen significantly in the past couple of years. Nevertheless, under the current policy, the number of nonlocal students enrolled in full-time locally accredited subdegree and undergraduate programs of self-financing institutions are capped at 10 percent of the total student enrolment in such programs in the preceding academic year. This barrier for self-financing institutions, which receive no direct operation subsidies from the government, should be removed so that Hong Kong can welcome more students and talents.
Self-financing institutions have more flexibility in designing curriculums. They therefore are able to offer a wider spectrum of disciplines, from arts to science and business, and provide more diversified options for students for their career paths. Indeed, some of their programs, e.g., aircraft services engineering, cybersecurity, mechanical engineering, nursing, tourism, etc, are unique or help fulfill demands in Hong Kong, and the whole Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. Raising the number of nonlocal students would allow self-financing institutions to cater to a broader market and therefore the ability to create more innovative and distinctive programs. This will also bring more diversity to Hong Kong’s postsecondary education sector. Recently, some self-financing institutions expressed the hope of exploring the possibility to establish new campuses or initiate cooperative education projects in the GBA, Fujian or Southeast Asia in order to upgrade from a regional to an international institution. This should establish a brand new model for tertiary education under “one country, two systems”.
In recent years, some self-financing institutions have had difficulties meeting their student intake targets. In 2021-22, approximately 6,000 student places were not filled. This is a waste of resources and another reason to uncap their intake of nonlocal students. If all these places were filled, the additional revenue could amount to HK$360 million ($46 million) every year, based on an average annual tuition fee of HK$60,000. This is a substantial amount, which would allow self-financing institutions to achieve sustainable development, thereby strengthening Hong Kong’s capacity to service the talents demands of the GBA.
Other supportive measures should also be put in place. The government should encourage local institutions to expand study pathways for nonlocal students, especially subdegree students, and tailor-make applied subdegree and undergraduate programs that accommodate the human resources demand not only for Hong Kong but also the mainland; in particular, GBA cities. We should also improve the program-quality assurance mechanism to ensure that self-financing institutions would not sacrifice the quality of their programs nor the standard of student acceptance in order to get more students. Hong Kong’s high accommodation costs remain a major obstacle for nonlocal students. The government should work with the institutions to figure out how to solve this rooted problem.
A global education hub
The UK’s Times Higher Education recently released its World University Rankings 2023. In total, 18 GBA universities made it onto the list, including six from Hong Kong. This reflects the high standard of GBA’s tertiary education and that it is recognized by the world. Hong Kong has the capability and potential to take the lead to build a global education hub in the region.
Leveraging the mainland while engaging with the world, Hong Kong self-financing institutions should be allowed to recruit more nonlocal students, and the restriction on the number of nonlocal-student admission must be lifted. This will deepen and widen Hong Kong’s connection not only with the mainland but also the world, especially Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Belt and Road countries. In order to develop the best strategy, the government must take into account the needs of national development and roll out comprehensive measures to further develop the tertiary-education sector and to bring in talents for Hong Kong and the GBA. By strengthening our education and talent pool, Hong Kong and the GBA will certainly embrace a more-flourishing economy with a brighter future.
The author is a Hong Kong deputy to the National People’s Congress and chairman of the Textile Council of Hong Kong.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.