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China is easing the entrance of Hong Kong secondary school graduates into 63 selected mainland universities by recognising the new Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination as an acceptable college entrance qualification for these students. This move is meant to alleviate the pressure faced by two cohorts of secondary school students (year 12 and 13) specifically at the juncture when Hong Kong is introducing a transition from a three-year to a four-year university curriculum.
Despite its ambition to become Asia’s education hub, Hong Kong provides only 15 000 state-funded first-year-first-degree places for its own students. This means that 80% of the 72,876 students registered for the 2012 HKDSE (as compared to the 42 069 registered for the Advanced Level Examination in 2011) will need to look for alternative study opportunities. Keen competition for university entrance is not new in Hong Kong. What is new, however, is the uncertainty surrounding the new examination, which will be administered for the first time in 2012. Many students have fled the system without registering for the HKDSE, which partially explains the rise of Hong Kong students in the UK despite the fee increases there.
The re-unification of Hong Kong and China in 1997 did not re-unify their respective education systems, which still run separately. Partly as a result of these systemic incompatibilities, Chinese universities have captured only limited numbers of Hong Kong students. The impact of China’s special recruitment exercise is yet to be seen. But some Hong Kong institutions in the private sector have already formed partnerships with foreign providers to channel students through 1+3 arrangements in which students complete the first year of study in Hong Kong and continue overseas for the remaining 3 years of a degree programme.
In the meantime, China reiterates its commitment to recruit talented domestic students in specific subjects such as literature, athletics and the arts, by allowing admission based on independent examinations conducted by university alliances. The independent examinations do not exempt the students from taking the central college entrance examination; however, they do allow these applicants to gain extra points for admission through the specialised examinations.Ministry of Education, PR China (recruitment of Hong Kong students, in Chinese) Education Bureau, Hong Kong SAR, China Ministry of Education, PR China (independent recruitment of talented students, in Chinese)