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image The International Student Experience in Hong Kong (& HKUST) hkust hong kong Although Hong Kong is probably as global as you can get in East Asia, surprisingly, there aren’t that many international students studying in Hong Kong. Occasionally, I get emails from prospect students who look for information about studying in Hong Kong and come across my blog, asking me what my impressions are about studying in Hong Kong and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

Following are some quick notes about things you might want to think about or consider about studying as an international student in Hong Kong. Please note that my perspective is limited to my studies as a post-grad PhD student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and only reflects my impressions and experience after a single semester.

 

image1 The International Student Experience in Hong Kong (& HKUST) hkust hong kong

 

All studies are conducted in English and English is almost always used for academic and administrative interactions, even when no international students or scholars are present. With that said, the language barrier becomes more noticeable in places like the cafeteria and I’ve already been in a seminar or two in other universities (like CHKU) that had a few sessions in Mandarin due to the visiting speaker’s request. Some general university events and lectures are held in Cantonese or Mandarin, but that is always explained in the notices about the event and is directed especially at the local or mainland audiences.

 

HKUST has one of the most impressive bureaucracies I’ve seen anywhere and from what I’ve heard this is generally the case for other HK universities as well. The administrative staff is always helpful, very efficient and has so far replied to all my queries and requests with unprecedented curtsey, speed and professionalism.

 

image2 The International Student Experience in Hong Kong (& HKUST) hkust hong kong

 

The Hong Kong Universities collaborate with each other on a number of areas. You can easily order and transfer books between the libraries of the Hong Kong universities, students are invited to events and conferences in other universities, every university has open courses for students from other universities with full credit transfer and there alot of academic collaborations between scholars and students of all universities. Although the universities compete with each other to some degree, I have yet to come across any politics or ego in how the universities work together and from where I’m sitting it’s looking like good synergy.

 

While getting a scholarship for an undergraduate degree might be a bit of a challenge, all MPhil and PhD post-graduate students are on a scholarship from the Hong Kong government. The stipend is essentially 13000HK$ (/13400HK$ after the exams) per month for 10 months of the year and the other two months are usually taken care of by the department (either the Dean’s office or a mentoring professor). The scholarship can not be supplemented by additional work of any kind, including academic research assistance. To give you a sense of costs, tuition fee is around 22,000HK$ per semester, the most expensive on-campus dorms are about 2800HK$/month, and an average meal in an on-campus cafeteria is 20-40HK$. All in all, for the single student the studentship should be enough to take care of most of your needs and a bit more. If you want to live off-campus and eat out or party every once in a while, you might wanna consider planning your finances. There is new scheme announced by the HK government to attract world class scholars and students, so if your grades and record are good enough you can apply for a 20,000HK$/month scholarship which comes with a 10,000HK$/semester research travel expense account. Ask the HK university you’re applying to about that, they’ll give you further details.

 

image3 The International Student Experience in Hong Kong (& HKUST) hkust hong kong

 

The faculty academic level that I’ve seen so far has exceeded my prior expectations. The department faculty is world class, the visiting professors I’ve had the last semester were terrific (1 from Harvard, 1 from Berkeley, and 1 from Lugano) and at most times there is an interesting interaction in class even though I sometimes find it slightly more quiet and polite than I’m used to. The structure of the PhD program consists of 2 years of courses (36 credits) followed by a comprehensive qualifying exam. The courses have been intense, and at the most busy period we had mandatory readings for class of over 25 academic articles and a few more casual assignments. Students are encouraged to work with faculty on research projects in their chosen topics of interest, either micro-OB, macro-OB or strategy, which I find essential and refreshing in contrast to prior academic experiences.

 

From the little I know about the undergrad degree from my friends at the university, competition is intense. The university has a "curve policy" to normalize grades to follow normal distribution and since the mainlanders who are accepted to the HK universities are said to be top of the best in the tens of millions of Chinese students looking for high quality education the result is – mainlanders are usually top of the class, followed by the locals and trailed by the international students, some of them struggling to pass. Although undergrads have an active society-club or hall life, they do spend long hours studying, far more than I’ve seen anywhere else I’ve studied before (Taiwan included). Interaction in class varies, and the university is attempting to encourage attendance and participation by means of a curious electronic device (called PRS – Personal Response System, find overview here) assigned to each student to vote on class discussions and "participation cards" that give you participation points or bonuses that affect your final score. After acting as a judge on a few competitions at the business school I can generally say that I was very impressed with the level of creativity, delivery and overall professionalism of the projects by the teams that has surpassed previous events I’ve sat on before.

 

image4 The International Student Experience in Hong Kong (& HKUST) hkust hong kong

 

Generally, the 3 groups of mainlanders, HKese and international students tend to socialize mainly within themselves and occasionally there are some interesting tensions between the groups. Though the groups do mingle and spend time together it doesn’t happen often as I thought it would. The general interest locals have had in me as a foreigner in other countries I’ve lived in has not replicated itself here in Hong Kong and I wonder about that sometimes. In my department, out of maybe 12-15 students there are 3 international students, myself included, all male BTW, and most of the students are mainlanders, and interestingly – mostly female. I wonder about that sometimes as well.

 

Got any other questions about HK universities, HKUST, or studying in Hong Kong as an international student? Let me know.



Tags: academic; hkust; Hong Kong; international students; universities;


  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Tammy – That sounds great. Let me know if you need any help with that.

    Mai – :) Thanks. Glad to hear from you.

  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Tammy – That sounds great. Let me know if you need any help with that.

    Mai – :) Thanks. Glad to hear from you.

  • tammy truong

    i wanna do business in hongkong after i graduate! LOL
    i think that is a nice place!

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      tammy – it’s a terrific place. come on over.

  • tammy truong

    i wanna do business in hongkong after i graduate! LOL
    i think that is a nice place!

  • tammy truong

    i wanna do business in hongkong after i graduate! LOL
    i think that is a nice place!

  • tammy truong

    i wanna do business in hongkong after i graduate! LOL
    i think that is a nice place!

  • Mai

    Hi Fili, glad to know you are doing fine in HK. Thank u very much for ur useful information about studying there. Take care

  • Mai

    Hi Fili, glad to know you are doing fine in HK. Thank u very much for ur useful information about studying there. Take care

  • Mai

    Hi Fili, glad to know you are doing fine in HK. Thank u very much for ur useful information about studying there. Take care

  • Mai

    Hi Fili, glad to know you are doing fine in HK. Thank u very much for ur useful information about studying there. Take care

  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Tammy – That sounds great. Let me know if you need any help with that.

    Mai – :) Thanks. Glad to hear from you.

  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Thanks Lily. I bet being away from the boyfriend ain't easy.
    You wouldn't be able to stay with him when you visit?

    If you can't, there aren't that many good options. I updated my HK accommodation post with some info about HKUST at the end. Check it out, hope that helps :
    http://www.filination.com/blog/2009/06/26/recom

    If you need anything else in regards to HK, let me know.
    My regards to your MBA boyfriend. Since we're from the same school, will probably meet him at some point.

  • Lily

    I thought your description of life as a student at HKUST was really thorough and matches what I've heard from my boyfriend who is studying for his MBA there.

    Also, would you know of a guesthouse in Clear Water Bay, a room for rent?
    Planning to visit soon.

    Have a good school year ahead..
    Thanks,

    Lily

  • Murtaza Jabalpurwala

    It is indeed vividly described & insightful for a person like me. You are very enthusiastic. Looking forward to meet you personally during my visit.
    Thanks,
    Murtaza.

  • Murtaza Jabalpurwala

    It is indeed vividly described & insightful for a person like me. You are very enthusiastic. Looking forward to meet you personally during my visit.
    Thanks,
    Murtaza.

  • Joyce Wong 61219931

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  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Rebecca – hey… nice to hear from you. Not that many international female post-grads in HKUST outside the MBA program. What will you be studying?

    Let me know if you have any questions or need any help. I would be happy to help. When you get here, let me know – first round'o beers at the UniBar's on me ;)

  • Rebecca

    Hey! I'll be joining HKUST as an international graduate student in Fall 2010. I am very excited. It's great to read your blog as an impression of what to expect.Hey! I'll be joining HKUST as an international graduate student in Fall 2010. I am very excited. It's great to read your blog as an impression of what to expect.

  • Max Hsu

    Hi Fili ! I'm so glad I came across your blog, I'm definitely bookmarking it!
    I'm heading over to HKUST next month actually for college, yup I'm and undergrad! Oh, I'll be an international student by the way. would you recommend me getting a single room or a double room?

    I've been to the campus twice and it looks great. I hope you're having a good time there

  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Hi Max – Welcome to UST. Personally, I prefer my own room, though the single room university apartments are much more quiet and less lively than the undergrad shared halls. I suggest you browse through the various hall websites, see what they're about and use that to decide. If you have any more questions, try and find me online (MSN/Gtalk).

  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Vaniaxliu – not too sure about the numbers, but there are a few full time international students from North American. What I am sure of is that there are massive numbers of North American exchange students coming every semester from top schools in the US, which you could also exchange to from UST if you wanted to. For formal statistics I suggest you look at the QS world rankings for HKUST (http://www.topuniversities.com/university/267/hongkonguniversitysciencetechnology) in the statistics section.

  • Vaniaxliu

    I’m considering to apply to HKUST as an undergrad international student. I was wondering how many international students are from America, and if the acceptance rate would be high or low. Thanks!

  • magyargyerek

    I was wondering if you knew anything about how hard is it to get into HKU or HKUST as an international undergraduate. I want to study business there. I live in the United States btw.

  • guest

    hey there i’m one of the students who is going to this school and well i’m not from hongkong.
    this is now my third year, and my experience? bad.
    not only was i stuck in a major with the least number of international students, plus least number of people with the same gender, this probably was the worst three years of my whole life.

    I’m just saying that for thoes who do come to HKUST, keep in mind that you’re experience will either be super amazing or super bad.

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      guest – :( thanks for sharing that. . I am really very sorry to hear that you feel this way, but I understand completely.
      I do know how distant this place can be for an international student, and the insane pressure they put on students here – especially undergrads. I do hope you can enjoy the time you still have left here.

  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Hi Nandakv4, I’m afraid I’m not too familiar with those programs. If you have more general questions about the university, I’d be happy to try and help.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/2AEYAKDFDNI4WIJNJLRIX5EGPQ/ Cassis Juniel

    Do companies/businesses in Hong Kong/China tend to look for people with American degrees or HK degrees in terms of hiring someone?

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      Cassis – it’s very difficult to generalize, but companies in China definitely have preferences for local talent or locals with combined experience/education both locally and abroad. Language and culture understanding skills seem important. Probably less so in HK, but still – banking and trade do have a slightly different angle here. If you only have an American degree with little to no knowledge of the region, I’d say it might be more difficult. But that’s based more on intuition, not actual knowledge.

  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Raphi – it depends which program you want to enroll to. I would suggest writing to the specific department you’re interested in and ask them for the specific details.

  • https://twitter.com/OtisLamb Otis

    Fili, for your information, the ‘curve policy’ may happen in some courses, but this doesn’t come from the university.

  • https://twitter.com/OtisLamb Otis

    And I have to say that this is a good article as you captures the situation quite accurately in such a short time at here.

  • Martin

    Hello Filli,
    I am a European student studying at a boarding school (high school) in India and, after visiting Hong Kong last summer (2010), I am considering going to Hong Kong for undergrad studies in business (possibly economics). Unlike you (according to your post http://www.filination.com/blog/2009/12/25/hong-kong-culture-people-mainland-china/), I enjoyed the business and hectic nature of the city at first — I find the efficiency and modern spirit of HK wonderful.

    I have been looking at rankings but I am having difficulty finding out whether HKUST or HKU is deemed superior in business and economics (not considering other areas) — you are a Ph.D. student and though you would have a real-life insight into this, in a different way than online rankings does. I would be very happy if you could give me an “insighters” perspective on this.

    Thanks in advance,
    Martin

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      @Martin – definitely HKUST when it comes to business/economics. I’d say that HKUST business school is the top one in Asia, both in terms of practicalities (MBA/EMBA, see the FT and Top-QS rankings) and research (publications, see UTDallas). Better catch that International PhD fellowship deadline in December. That’s a REALLY good scholarship opportunity, perhaps among the best ones in the world – courtesy of the generous HK government.

      • Martin

        Thank you so much for the quick response. I am currently a high school student, though, so would be doing undergrad studies.

  • jenne.

    Hi Fili. it feels so great to read your posts about HKUST. I’m actually offered an admission to get into HKUST in school of engineering. What i really want to ask is:
    1. Is it possible to get a financial aid/ scholarship for my first year? I heard it’s so hard.
    2. I’m kind of afraid of adapting at there. I began to ask myself if HKUST is the best choice for me.

  • Archer

    Hi Fili, loved reading your article. Nice.

    I got admission for masters in City Univ HK. They say the college hostels are full, so I need to find accomodation by myself. How difficult is it to find accomodation near to the University? Also is there any hope that I can apply for some kind of scholarship, either from University or from the govt.

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      Archer – thanks. you might also want to check out the answers i write on Its Hong Kong – http://www.itshongkong.org/forums/general-discussions-and-announcements/study-hk

      It’s not easy, and it’s not affordable, especially in the center where CityU is. But CityU should be able to help you with that (our guide is here : https://sao.ust.hk/housing/index.html)

      If you’re doing a research masters, there should be scholarships. if not – chances for a scholarship are slim. if you’re an international students, chances are even slimmer.

      but the international students office in your university should be able to provide you with all needed information. contact them.

      oh, and welcome to HK ^^

  • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

    Asfandy – all good questions. there are no promises, but i can generally guess that the American universities would probably not be very familiar with the school, so there will be some explaining needed.
    as for job opportunities, that would depend where and how.international students tend to experience some hardships , but i imagine that at the end most of our graduates do find decent jobs.

    • http://www.facebook.com/taiwo.ayodeji.94 Taiwo Ayodeji

      wrong. American unis organize exchange programs with these schools so wat do u mean? U just said some of ur visiting profs were from harvard and berkeley!!!

  • matt

    how hard is it to get in for an international student from the us

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      @matt – i really don’t think where you’re from has anything to do with it. it’s your qualifications that matter.

  • Tiffany

    Hey c: just wondering how hard it will be for a scholarship for someone who lives in new zealand …do they pick them from each country or do they pick from all over the world combined? Thanks

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      Tiffany – there are very few scholarships available to international students, unless you’re going for graduate school. For those that are available, the country of origin doesn’t mean much, it’s your academic credentials that matter.

  • Gregory

    Hello, I’m from Russia and i’m planning to go to University of hong kong, if it isn’t hard for you, can you tell me please do i need to pass SAT or IELTS or some other exams to get there?
    Thanks a lot

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      Gregory – i’m afraid you’re asking the wrong person. you should be talking to the department you want to apply to, they’ll be able to give you exact details about the requirements. most departments in hk have those details posted on their websites.

      good luck.

  • Chatty

    Hey…Can you tell me about the future of Mphil in Computer science from HKUST?….As I am indian student and looking for coming back after my Master with depth knowledge and good opportunity…….is it going to worth to spend this much money…….
    Thanks……

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      chatty – i really can’t. no one can. but if you want some stats you should really get in touch with the relevant department at HKUST, they’d be happy to provide you with those.

      • Chatty

        Ok…Thanks….But at least you can suggest is it going to worth to do MS from HKUST…Even I know it’s one of the world’s best University ….but I didn’t find any information on Master’s program of HKUST…….I will ask to the department of HKUST…but you know they will not say anything negative points…right

        • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

          chatty – i’m afraid i don’t know much about department, but i can say with some confidence that it’s probably the best you can find in Asia.

  • Kylica

    Hi Fili, I think Hong Kong’s universities are getting more and more hard to get in as there are many top mainlander students looking for high quality education in Hong Kong. And I found something interesting that Hong Kong local students are trying to go oversea study but mainlander students are looking for study chance to get in Hong Kong.

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      Kylica – yeah, perhaps you’re right. I think both mainlanders and HK try to go abroad for post graduate studies, but HK is the best education hub in Asia that allows them to stay close enough to home but far enough for some needed freedom.
      It is getting harder to get accepted and compete for the top scholarships, that’s for sure.

  • Brandon

    Hi,

    I am somewhat new to all this, but I’m currently a student of International and Global Studies (focused mostly on France and China) in the U.S. I’m currently doing ESL work on the mainland but developed/ deepened an interest in Hong Kong during a recent visit. My hope is to study sociology there at the graduate level (either master’s or doctoral program; the first may be more expensive, the second more competitive as I understand it).

    Most of what I’ve read so far is from people in the science, tech, and business fields. However, my interests lie in the social dynamics of the city (including gender and sexuality), its history and politics, and its relationship to mainland China. Would CHKU or HKU be the best places to pursue these interests? Any word on how competitive this field is or what kind of aid I could expect from a master’s or doctoral program? My impression is that it’s pretty difficult to get all one’s ducks (financing, housing, and acceptance) lined up in Hong Kong.

    But I hope it’s doable. I’m in love with the city and its people already.

    • http://www.filination.com/blog/ Fili

      Brandon – Yeah, CUHK and HKU are definitely the top schools for that in HK. HKUST also has a social sciences department that might be of interest to you. Poly/City/Baptist are the second tier choices.

      I’d suggest doing a PhD directed program, which starts with an MPhil for 1-2 years and then turns into a PhD program. Those are usually supported by a HK government scholarship.

      I don’t think it’s all that competitive. Sadly, there just aren’t that many international students with a keen interest in studying in HK. I think it’s definitely doable. It would help to get in touch with the departments you wish to study with and make more specific inquiries.

      Good luck.

      • Brandon

        Would it be premature to contact them already? I’ve still got a couple years to go yet… Also, I’m reading on CUHK’s Web site that a Master’s degree is required for admission to their doctoral program. Am I misreading that? Is the government stipend enough to survive on without incurring too much additional debt? Or does it just depend?

  • Brandon

    Hi there! I’m the one who asked a little while back about the sociology programs at HKU and CUHK. Since then, I’ve heard back from one of them about finances, and your comments were really helpful. Now one of my primary concerns is housing. How can international students find lodging in such a densely packed, expensive city? I know that some metropolises in the U.S. like New York have tons of online resources for people looking for roommates, open to couch surfers, etc. What about HK? Is housing the silver bullet, or is it doable?

  • Sudhakar

    Hello Fili, Nice to heard your experience in HKUST. I have also planning to do PHD from HKUST. I have some query..pls give me appropriate response.

    Is It necessary to show any publication related research during PHD admission in HKUST?. I do not have any research publication and i want to get admission in PHD (Management). Am i eligible for this admission or not ?

    Sudhakar
    India

    • http://www.filination.com/ Fili An

      Hi Sudhakar. Most applicants do not have any publications when they apply, but applicants are expected to know the area and the literature and to identify what topic they’d like to start working on and with which faculty.
      But, in any case, you shouldn’t be talking to an anonymous blogger on the net, you should be contacting the department and talking to a member of the recruiting committee. They should be able to answer any questions you have.

      • Sudhakar

        Thanks Fili

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