Friday, May 31, 2013

Do we have enough universities in HK?

Each year more than 70,000 students graduate from secondary schools in Hong Kong, while the number of university places subsidized by the government is 15,000.  There are some degree programs offered by overseas universities or other private institutions in Hong Kong.  But they are either very expensive, or not very good, or both.  It is said that ~60% of the secondary school graduates can study post-secondary programs.  But those are mostly higher diploma or associate degrees.  Hence there seems to be a strong argument for more universities, or at least, more subsidized university places for bachelor degrees.

On the other hand, many professors complain that it is difficult to teach some of those entering universities.  The good ones are still very good.  But there is a significant number that are academically not well prepared to study in the university.  Some complain that the students’ language skills are not good enough, or that the mathematical and analytical capabilities are weak.  More often, however, the complaint is that some students simply do not know how to study without a lot of hand-holding and close supervision.  They are good at taking examinations, but not much else.

At university, students are expected to figure out what their aspirations are, and work towards realizing their goals, which are different for each student. Unfortunately, many who enter university are not equipped to do that. They get lost, while the society has not yet accepted dropping out from university as an option. From this point of view, admitting more students to universities will worsen the problem.

I am not advocating reducing university places. On the contrary, I believe more young people should have the opportunity to study in universities, to realize their potential and their dreams.  But we have to do a better job in preparing our students to study on their own.

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