HK unis wooing Singapore students

Interviews being conducted here; one university has held talks in Singapore schools to publicise offerings

Hong Kong's top universities are ramping up efforts to attract Singapore students.

For the first time in January next year, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) will hold admission interviews here.

This follows a similar move by Hong Kong University (HKU) earlier in March. HKU, which has 176 Singaporean students, is planning a second visit here in January. Such interviews are usually conducted over the phone or through video-conferencing.

HKUST has also held talks in schools such as junior colleges and international schools here to publicise its offerings.

Both universities are highly regarded in Asia.

The latest QS University Rankings puts HKU third on its Asian ranking list, which is topped by National University of Singapore (NUS). HKUST is placed fifth.

The World University Rankings also puts HKU third in Asia, a spot behind NUS. HKUST is ninth, two spots ahead of Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Professor Angela Ng, director of HKUST's undergraduate recruitment and admissions office, told The Sunday Times that universities there want to have more diversity in their student bodies.

"Singapore is definitely a target country as its students perform really well," she said.

HKUST, which currently has 43 students from Singapore, has seen a 25 per cent increase in applications from here in recent years.

For this year's intake, the research-oriented university received more than 200 applications from Singapore, said Prof Ng. That led to 44 offers being made, six of which went to Singaporeans.

Hong Kong universities are allowed to take in a fifth of their undergraduates from abroad.

Students from Asia, including mainland China, South Korea, Indonesia and India, make up most of the foreign students at HKUST, which has a yearly enrolment of around 2,000.

Fees for foreigners are HK$120,000 (S$19,300) a year, although they can apply for allowances and scholarships to help cover tuition fees and living expenses.

In other popular destinations for university studies such as Australia and Britain, tuition fees range from $16,000 to $40,000 a year.

Prof Ng told The Sunday Times: "The Hong Kong government also allows non-local students to stay on after they graduate and job prospects are very good."

NUS' provost for undergraduate education, Professor Bernard Tan, said that competition for top talent is a "global phenomenon".

NTU's senior associate provost of undergraduate education, Professor Kam Chan Hin, added: "We can't stop the competition, but what we need to do is to be better."

Mr Theo Yeung, a 23-year-old Singaporean in his second year studying operations management and economics at HKUST, said he wanted to study abroad to get a "different learning experience".

"HKUST is young, vibrant and the best option I had then as a student who was looking for a business career outside Singapore."