A record proportion of school leavers will be offered a place at Hong Kong universities this year, amid a drop in competition as fewer students applied for spots.
Official data from the joint universities admissions body showed 37.5 per cent, or 15,642, of the more than 41,000 applicants were offered places as first-year students in publicly funded or self-financing bachelor’s degree programmes.
It was the highest percentage since 2012, when the new Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) university entrance exams were introduced.
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Some 13,785 pupils secured offers involving their top three choices, 346 more than last year, the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (Jupas) said on Wednesday.
In all, 41,664 applicants will find out their offers after they are released at 9am on Thursday.
A student guidance organisation expected that with more applicants securing their preferred choice, more would stay in Hong Kong rather than head to mainland China or overseas to further their studies.
Largely due to a lower birth rate from 1994 onwards, the number of high school graduates has been declining over the past seven years, with about 3,000 fewer students taking the DSE exams this year compared to 2019.
There were also fewer Jupas applicants, as about 18,000 students achieved the minimum requirements for local undergraduate programmes, a 5.6 per cent drop from last year. About 45,000 secondary school students took the DSE exams this year.
The number of people who applied for local universities hit a record low, falling more than 35 per cent compared to 2012, the year the DSE exams replaced the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination and A-levels.
Meanwhile, about 4,353 secondary school graduates were admitted to a local subsidised associate degree or higher diploma programme – qualifications that might enable students to progress to a university undergraduate degree – both the highest percentage and highest number recorded since the DSE exams began.
Ng Po-shing, a consultant at student guidance centre Hok Yau Club, said it was natural that a higher percentage of school leavers were admitted to undergraduate programmes, given fewer eligible pupils were competing for a fixed number of around 15,000 places.
He also expected more students might choose to stay in Hong Kong, despite a surge in applications to universities elsewhere.
“With more students getting their preferred university offers, those who have also applied for universities in mainland China, Taiwan or overseas as backup choices might think twice before making a decision on whether to [leave Hong Kong],” Ng said.
Of the seven pupils who scored perfect grades in the seven DSE subjects this year, four have been admitted to the University of Hong Kong and one to Chinese University. Some had also received offers from Cambridge and Oxford universities in Britain.
The number of students applying for law-related subjects at local universities dropped this year, with HKU’s law faculty admitting 23 high achievers who scored top grades in three or more DSE subjects.
School graduates this year had faced anti-government protests and the Covid-19 pandemic – which led to citywide class suspensions from early February and a one-month delay of the DSE exams. The release date of university offers was postponed for more than a week as a result.
Some local universities have offered more flexible arrangements for admissions, including conducting online interviews, postponing deadlines for portfolio submissions and reviewing the criteria for offers.
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