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Hong Kong eyes India to diversify recruitment

With the aim of diversifying their undergraduate student cohorts, Hong Kong universities are set to use a sizeable grant to turn to India as the main destination from which to recruit students.

Hong Kong is pushing for further internationalisation, with 78% of its students hailing from Mainland China. Photo: Pixabay

The number of international students from countries outside Asia has decreased steadily since 2019/20

There are now plans, which were unveiled by the University Grants Committee, for the eight institutions to go on a joint recruitment trip to the country in the first half of 2024.

No specific date has yet been set, The PIE understands.

The University Grants Committee, which provides funding to public universities in Hong Kong, is set to give around HK$30m (US$3.83m) to promote the internationalisation drive over the next three years.

Statistics from the UGC showed the number of international students from countries outside Asia has decreased steadily since 2019/20 – from 865 to 794.  The vast majority of international student still come from mainland China.

UGC statistics obtained by The PIE from 2022/23 show at its eight funded universities, the total number of non-local students to be 20,712, with mainland China taking over 78% of the student share with 16,233 undergraduate and postgraduate students.

International undergraduates, meanwhile totalled 14,756 at the institutions. Some 10,358 are from the Chinese mainland – accounting for 70% of undergraduates, according to the South China Morning Post.

Associate vice-president of Lingnan University, Lau Chi-Pang, said India was “almost an English-speaking country” – and that Indian students are now sought after in many countries due to their sound foundation in mathematics and science.

In data from 2022, 815 students in Hong Kong were Indian, as indicated by the Indian Ministry for External Affairs – down from 2021 figures of 916.

India is fast-growing in its takeover as a top source market – it was reported in late 2023 that Indian students had surpassed the number of Chinese students in the US, according to a database held by Homeland Security. India is also poised to eclipse China’s position as the top sending country to the UK, too.

With India already being an attractive destination for international student recruitment, tough competition from other countries is certainly expected – not to mention that most of the students going abroad from India are postgraduate students.

France, Malaysia and South Korea are among the countries that have recently declared their aims to attract more Indian students over the next decade.

The Hong Kong government also plans to increase student housing capacity by 2027, with an additional number of 13,500 beds.

“Indian students are now sought after in many countries”

Reports of student living shortages in Hong Kong stretch back as far as 2015, but while Hong Kong is long understood to be a property downturn, 2023 saw companies stepping in to convert hotels to student accommodation to help ease the shortage.

The new push for internationalisation comes just three months after the city’s Immigration Department introduced a pilot scheme allowing postgraduate students to be able to work up for up to 20 hours a week, as well as curriculum-related internships and summer jobs.

A Government spokesperson told the Financial Express that the arrangement will “allow these students to enhance their experience and understanding of working in Hong Kong, and further increase their incentive to stay in Hong Kong for their development after graduation”.

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