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Hong Kong: New Chief Executive ponders the development of education as an “industry”

The 2013 Policy Address delivered on January 16 by Hong Kong’s new Chief Executive Leung Chun-Ying calls into question the development of “education industry” in the city state.  The doubt is literally expressed in this five-year agenda of the Hong Kong SAR Government (see Item 42): “…the public is divided as to whether education services should be regarded as an industry. The need to meet local demand also clashes with the need to promote the growth of these two industries.”

Aspired to become one of Asia’s education hubs, the previous administration led by Donald Tsang identified education as one of the six economic pillars. Subsequently, a number of incentives have been introduced to support the development of self-financing higher education, including the offer of public grants, loans and, more importantly, land in the city which is known for high property prices (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, December 2010).

Despite its aspiration to become an education hub, Hong Kong has not been proactively seeking top-tier institutions to set up branches in the city. So far, the private higher education sector in Hong Kong is largely composed of the private branches of its own public universities, operating in the form of ‘community colleges’, and private courses offered by foreign providers.

With the shift indicated in the Policy Address, rumors had that the new administration plans to re-appropriate a sizable 100 000-square-metre site at the Queen’s Hill to meet the urgent needs of the population for residential buildings. This highly interesting site has attracted not only local institutions but also a number of foreign providers after an international call for “Expressions of interest”. The call received nine submissions, including two strong contenders: The University of Aberdeen (Scotland) and the Jesuit church.

The Policy Address stops short of calling off the deal. However, the tender of the Queen’s Hill site, which was originally scheduled to be released in December last year, is still nowhere in sight.

2013 Policy Address Hong Kong SAR Government – Press release