Non-local student quota doubles as city promotes hub status

The quota of non-local undergraduate students from overseas and mainland China at Hong Kong’s public universities is set to double from 20% to 40%, according to an announcement on Wednesday 25 October by Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee in his annual policy speech.

This is part of a raft of measures he announced to position Hong Kong as an international hub for education as well as a centre for innovation and research.

Raising the cap from the 2024-25 academic year could increase the number of non-local students from around 3,000 now to about 6,000 of the 15,000 student intake. The majority are likely to be from mainland China, attracted to Hong Kong’s highly ranked institutions.

Around three-quarters of non-local students enrolled in the 2022-23 academic year were from the mainland. In practice, several universities overshot their limit in the past year. The cap on the number of non-local undergraduate students was last raised in 2008, from 10% to 20%.

There is no cap on the recruitment of foreign and mainland postgraduate students, but Lee announced on Wednesday that restrictions would be lifted on non-local postgraduate students seeking part-time jobs in Hong Kong, as part of the city’s measures to entice professional talent and encourage more to stay on.

Currently just 1% of overseas graduates from Hong Kong’s universities are staying on, at a time when the city is seeing a major exodus of talent and is vying with other Asian countries to attract top graduates.

The lifting of part-time work restrictions “will be implemented on a trial basis for two years, during which more than 35,000 students are expected to benefit”, Lee announced.

Non-local students joining vocational training institutions will be able to stay in Hong Kong for a year to look for jobs following graduation, in a two-year pilot scheme, he said.

Hong Kong’s Top Talent scheme, launched last year to allow graduates from the world’s top 100 universities to look for work in the city, attracted almost 26,000 successful applicants by the end of June 2023 – 95% of them from the mainland.

The list of universities for the Top Talent scheme will be expanded to include graduates from 184 institutions, Lee announced.

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