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Education/Training (EDS) Market in Hong Kong and Macau








Hong Kong Students in the US





Macau Students in the US





Source: Open Doors Report, Institute of International Education

Hong Kong’s population of just over 7 million has a literacy rate of 95 percent, and 16 percent of Hong Kong people over the age of 15 have at least a Bachelor’s degree (Source: Hong Kong Education and Manpower Bureau). As of 2008, compulsory, subsidized schooling is offered until the end of high school (12th Grade).

With 8,032 Hong Kong students studying in the U.S. during the 2011/12 academic year, Hong Kong ranked as the 16th leading origin of international students in the U.S. Due to Britain’s historical connection with Hong Kong, the U.K. is the leading overseas study destination (25.9 percent), followed by Australia (23.7 percent), with the U.S. in third place (19.6 percent). The breakdown in terms of level of study for Hong Kong students in the U.S. is 70 percent at the undergraduate level and 16 percent at the graduate level. The popular areas of study for Hong Kong students in the U.S. are business and management (31 percent), social sciences (14 percent), fine and applied arts (8 percent), physical and life sciences (8 percent), engineering (7 percent), math and computer science (6 percent), with a range of other subject areas making up the balance of the remaining 28 percent.

Hong Kong’s Education and Manpower Bureau revamped its education system in 2009. Instead of taking two exams -- one in Form 5 (Grade 11) and one in Form 7 (Grade 13), students are now required to take only one -- the Hong Kong Certificate of Secondary Education, which was previously for those continuing on from Form 5 (Grade 11) to Form 6 (Grade 12). The Hong Kong A-Level Exam, which was previously for Form 7 (high school senior students continuing on to university), will be replaced by the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) and will be administered during the last year of high school. The new ‘3-3-4’ structure means that students will attend three years of compulsory, subsidized junior high school, three years of non-compulsory senior high school, and then four years of university. The 3-3-4 structure parallels the U.S. education system and is a significant change from the previously used British model under which Hong Kong students had 7 years of secondary school and entered college at the age of 19.

As a result of the education system reforms implemented in 2009, the 2011/12 academic year had the cohort of graduates from both systems (i.e. Advance Level and DSE graduates). According to the Hong Kong Education Bureau, only 18 percent of the graduates will be able to continue their further studies in publicly funded universities. In other words, an excellent DSE result would be critical for securing a seat in local universities.

In addition, to avoid the fierce competition in public examinations, many students have made an early departure from Hong Kong’s education system because the Year 12 program is mainly designed for materials review and preparatory exercises. This trend has created additional incentives for students to begin their overseas education at Form 4 (Grade 10) or Form 5 (Grade 11) instead of completing the graduating year at Form 6 (Grade 12). Therefore, there has been a slight (and likely short-term) decline in students going to study in the U.S., especially for higher education. This is mostly a result of the change from a three-year to a four-year secondary school curriculum. Students are leaving the system early and flocking to the U.K. and Australia to complete their secondary education because those systems all use the previous three-year timeframe. This has helped nullify the shock of the new four-year system.

Although this trend is pervasive at the moment, as students starting secondary education adjust to the four-year system, they will become more used to the new system and actually be better prepared, and more inclined, to enter U.S. universities.

Most Hong Kong parents employ education agents to advise them on overseas higher education, search for appropriate schools, and provide other related services. U.S. education institutions could consider partnering with an agent in Hong Kong who can assist in promoting their schools and recruiting students. Word of mouth is also a significant factor in college choices. Many Hong Kong students return from the United States and promote their alma maters, sending their friends and relatives to the same schools.

Sub-Sector Best Prospects

Since the service sector in Hong Kong has grown rapidly over the last several years, fields of study such as business, tourism and hospitality management, engineering, computer science, information technology, and service training for cruises, conventions, and exhibitions have become extremely popular. Other popular fields include mathematics, fine arts, social sciences, humanities, health sciences, and MBA / EMBA programs.

A number of U.S. education institutions have found success in developing partnerships with Hong Kong schools to open Hong Kong branch campuses for undergraduate and graduate programs. While the global hospitality sector has been affected by the economic downturn, the prospects for hospitality and MICE sector training in Hong Kong and Macau are also excellent because of the massive number of tourists from Mainland China.


U.S. educational institutions are gaining recognition in Hong Kong. Hong Kong parents are beginning to recognize the academic excellence of colleges outside the Ivy League, such as liberal arts colleges, the ‘public ivies,’ and community colleges. This is a result of many American institutions attending Hong Kong education shows and vigorously promoting themselves to Hong Kong schools and students.

Because of the enormous demand from Mainland Chinese students to study overseas and the typically higher education agent service fees in China, many agents in Hong Kong have established representative offices in South China with the relevant paperwork handled by the support team in Hong Kong. These agents counsel and prepare the students for school selection, visa interviews, housing, etc. Partnering with a Hong Kong agent would have the benefit of covering not only Hong Kong but also the nearby areas of Macau, Guangdong, and South China.

The State Department at the U.S. Consulate General in Hong Kong also promotes study abroad in the U.S. through its EducationUSA program. U.S. education institutions are encouraged to contact EducationUSA at: www.educationUSA.state.gov.

Web Resources

Trade Shows

U.S. Higher Education Fair
Dates: September 28, 2013
Venue: Conrad Hotel, Pacific Place, Hong Kong
Organizer: Institute of International Education
Tel: (852) 2603-5771
Fax: (852) 2603-5765
Website: http://www.iiehongkong.org

North American Boarding Schools Fair 2013
Date: November 2, 2013
Venue: To be confirmed
Organizer: Institute of International Education
Tel: (852) 2603-5771
Fax: (852) 2603-5765
Website: http://www.iiehongkong.org

The Education & Careers Expo 2014
Dates: February 13-16, 2014 (annual)
Venue: Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Center
Organizer: Hong Kong Trade Development Council
Contact: Mr. Sam Wei
Tel: (852) 2240-4352
Website: http://hkeducationexpo.hktdc.com


Education and Manpower Bureau
Email: enquiry_ncr@emb.gov.hk
Website: www.emb.gov.hk

U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong
Public Affairs Section – EducationUSA Advisor
EducationUSA Website: http://educationusa.state.gov
Facebook: www.facebook.com/EducationUSAinHKMacau
Twitter: http://twitter.com/EducationUSAhk
Email: hkeducationusa@state.gov

U.S. Commercial Service Hong Kong

Tel: (852) 2521-1467
Fax: (852) 2845-9800
Email: office.hongkong@trade.gov
Website: www.export.gov/hongkong