Only 18% (14,500) of Hong Kong students at an age when they should enter university (18 years old) can actually enter a local university. Most of these students earn their places in a local university on academic merit. When the government claims a 60% participation rate in post-secondary education, most of these students are studying in associate degrees, higher diplomas, etc. Despite popular belief, only a small fraction of them actually can enter a full-time degree program in a local university subsequently.
It is said that many students study in overseas universities. Mainly those whose parents are wealthy or are civil servants. But how many actually does? It turns out to be a hard question to answer.
The Hong Kong Government does not seem to have accurate statistics. And the data from from different sources vary greatly. The best data I can find is the following.
According to the British Council, quoting data from the Higher education Statistics Agency, ~3,600 Hong Kong students started first year undergraduate studies in the UK in 2007-08.
According to a paper presented in the Australian International Education Conference in 2007, quoting data from the Australian government, ~2,500 Hong Kong students obtained visas for Australia for higher education in 2006-07.
According to the Institute of International Education, there are about 8,200 Hong Kong students in higher education in the USA in 2007-08. About 70% of these are in undergraduate programs. Since the USA undergraduate programs are 4 years, there are probably ~1,500 Hong Kong students starting first year undergraduate programs in the USA.
According to Immigration Canada, there are ~5,000 Hong Kong students in Canada in 2004. The number that starts first year graduate is probably ~1,000.
The UK, Australia, USA and Canada are the most popular destinations for Hong Kong students. Together, they probably offer ~8,600 first year undergraduate places for Hong Kong students, about 60% of first year undergraduate places in Hong Kong.
The overall picture: 18% of Hong Kong 18 year olds enter local universities, another 11% probably enter overseas universities, raising the total participation rate to 29%. Still quite far from the OCED average of 53%.