Hong Kong universities successfully combine Western education and Eastern culture and philosophy. The goal of the city government is to make the region the educational center of Asia. This is made possible thanks to the large funding of higher education institutions, strong teaching staff, and the academic freedom and autonomy of universities. This bore fruit: Hong Kong universities consistently can be found in the top 100 of world ratings, they graduate in-demand specialists and are actively conducting research activities.

List and ranking of universities in Hong Kong

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Advantages of universities in Hong Kong

  • World rankings. Despite the small number of universities in Hong Kong, 5 out of 8 state universities entered the top 100 best universities in the world in the QS ranking 2021[1]. The University of Hong Kong, which is the first of the five, occupies the 22nd place, and the Hong Kong Polytechnic University — the last of the five — 75th place. The latter also ranked 8th in the QS ranking Top 50 under 50 in 2020 along with Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Hong Kong City University, which received 2nd and 4th places, respectively. And the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology ranked first in the THE ranking in the category of the best young universities in the world in 2019. This means that the quality and competitiveness of universities is recognized internationally.
  • Ratings of programs. In addition to the universities themselves, there are rankings for separate programs. For example, School's Kellogg-HKUST Executive MBA took 1st place among the best in the QS Joint Executive MBA (EMBA) ranking in 2019 and 2nd place in the Financial Times Executive MBA Ranking 2019. The program took 1st place in this rating 9 times (in 2007, 2009-2013, 2016-2018). Another noteworthy program is Hospitality & Leisure Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which took 8th place in the world according to the QS 2019,.
  • Modern infrastructure. Hong Kong universities are equipped with the latest technology. The facilities of large public universities extend over large areas and comprise entire campuses. They include faculty buildings, libraries, canteens, gyms and fields, concert halls and theaters, squares, gardens, and fountains. Universities are located in picturesque places: for example, the University of Hong Kong is occupying the monuments of the colonial era.
  • English language. The main language of instruction at Hong Kong universities is English. Despite the fact that one of the region’s official languages ​​is Chinese, only some short courses are taught in it. However, for those who want to start learning Chinese, Hong Kong is an ideal place. Many universities have language centers offering a variety of courses: from Cantonese and Putonghua to Greek and Swedish. And the city itself is international, so students can get acquainted with Chinese culture and language without much pressure.
  • The availability of scholarships. The total cost of education and life in the region is quite high. Hong Kong is one of the most expensive cities on the planet, and rental housing is the most expensive in the world for 2019[2]. To ease the financial burden, applicants can apply for scholarships. The Hong Kong government and local universities offer various grants, such as the Hong Kong PhD scholarship program. It provides for the issuance of 39,544 USD for training and 1,648 USD for study trips.
  • Further employment. Diplomas of Hong Kong universities are accepted all over the world and young specialists are in demand on the global and local labor markets. For example, for 13 consecutive years, almost 100% of graduates of Hong Kong University were employed after graduation[3]. And in 2019, 74% of graduates of Hong Kong Baptist University got a full-time job, while 12% continued their education[4]. Moreover, universities have career centers that help students to find work. They organize career fairs and collaborate with local businesses.
  • Significant funding. The Hong Kong SAR Government is generously funding the education sector and is committed to making the region a center of learning for Asia. In the fiscal year 2019-2020, the authorities invested 125861 million HKD in education, 25.9% of which accounted for higher education[5]. The government also supports academic research: in the 2017-2018 academic year, about 8.8 billion HKD was invested in universities funded by the UGC[6]. Moreover, in 2009, a research fund of 18 billion HKD was established to develop research in public universities. The fund is periodically replenished; in 2019 it received a contribution of 20 billion HKD[6]. In addition to government investment, universities receive financial assistance from large companies and foundations. Financial resources, coupled with academic freedom, create favorable conditions for the development and continuous improvement of education in the region.

Disadvantages of universities in Hong Kong

  • Large costs. Tuition fees at universities in Hong Kong start on average at 11,495 USD. Compared to universities in the United States or Great Britain, the education system of which Hong Kong used as a template, tuition here is relatively inexpensive. However, the cost of living in the city is high: a student spends more than 639 USD per month, not including house rental[7].
  • The reputation of private institutions and sub-degrees. Private schools in Hong Kong are often negatively perceived in society. Many believe that they exist only to make money and put profit above the quality of education. Sub-degree programs are especially criticized (associate's degree or higher diplomas). Media portray students in sub-degrees of private institutions as "losers" and society perceives them as weak students who were unable to enroll in bachelor’s studies. In addition, the employment rates of graduates with associate degrees leave much to be desired, which also negatively affects the reputation of private educational institutions[8].
  • Stiffening of academic freedom. Hong Kong universities enjoy institutional autonomy and academic freedom. Most educational institutions can easily accept students, teachers, and researchers from all over the world. Each state university has its own decree and governing body. Universities independently compose training programs, establish requirements for admission of students, award academic degrees, and hire/promote professors[9]. All these are no doubt positive features. However, in 2019, more than half of the teaching staff said that academic freedom in Hong Kong has declined significantly over the past year. This is mainly due to the political situation between the Chinese government and the people of Hong Kong[10]. The 2019 report on academic freedom in the region provides evidence that scientists were personally attacked and pressured by the CPC[11].
  • Stress and pressure. Starting from school, the people of Hong Kong experience stress associated with their studies. It is subsequently transferred to the university students. The causes of stress are fierce competition in the classroom, obsession with grades, and a large amount of material to learn and tasks to complete. This affects not only local but also foreign students who are accustomed to a more balanced lifestyle. In 2018, nearly 7 out of 10 bachelor’s students in Hong Kong suffered from depression and anxiety due to academic pressure and career worries[12].
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Requirements for admission to universities in Hong Kong

ProgramAgeDurationMin. costAvg. costMin.
language level
Foundation17+1-2 years4,854 USD / year15,327 USD/yearB2


Bachelor's17+3-4 years11,751 USD / year17,881 USD/yearB2TOEFL 79 / IELTS 6.0
MBA20+1-2 years21,969 USD/year72,803 USD/yearC1TOEFL 80 / IELTS 6.5
Master's20+1-3 years5,364 USD/year19,159 USD/yearC1TOEFL 80 / IELTS 6.5
Doctoral20+2-4 years10,754 USD/year31,931 USD/yearC1TOEFL 80 / IELTS 6.5

All data must be specified on the websites of universities.

To enter Hong Kong universities, an applicant needs to research the universities and choose the appropriate program. Since educational institutions establish the admission requirements themselves, they must be checked on the official websites of universities. The admission committee evaluates candidates based on grades, exam results, motivation letters, interviews, and other achievements.

Universities usually require the following documents:

Documents must be translated into English and notarized. It is worth noting that if an applicant studied in English, there is no need to take language exams.

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Types of educational institutions in Hong Kong

Higher educational institutions of Hong Kong are divided into:

  • Public universities funded by UGC (University Grants Committee);
  • Public universities financed by the Government of Hong Kong (state funds);
  • Private (self-funded) universities;
  • Sub-degree institutions (award associate degrees and higher diplomas).

In Hong Kong, there are more than 22 higher education institutions. In addition to bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs, students in Hong Kong's institutes can receive an associate's degree and a Higher Diploma. Already working adults study in short term programs of continuing education.

Colleges in Hong Kong

Vocational qualifications or sub-degree in Hong Kong can be obtained from the Vocational Training Council (VTC), Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, and other higher education institutions and colleges.

VTC is the largest association of institutions providing vocational education. The Council includes 13 schools in Hong Kong and annually educates about 250,000 students.

Programs are offered to high school graduates. Areas of study are diverse, for example, applied sciences, business administration, social services, design, engineering, hospitality, tourism, maritime studies, information technologies, and culinary art.

VTC curricula balance theory and practice, vocational, and general education. The institutes work closely with local and international firms and provide students with internships and integrated training. Thus, students graduated as specialists who are ready to work. It is worth noting that on average 90% of holders of VTC Higher Diplomas are successfully employed[13]. In addition to being able to work, sub-degree programs allow graduates to continue their studies at a bachelor's cycle.

VTC programs are accredited by the Hong Kong Accreditation Council for Academic and Vocational Qualifications and are recognized internationally. In addition, they offer opportunities for studying abroad and participating in international events. About 7,000 students annually go on study trips, contests, and internships abroad.

VTC has an international development office helping international students with documents, visas, and extracurricular issues. The Council’s website provides more information for international students.

Professional programs are also run by private colleges such as the Caritas Institute of Higher Education, Centennial College, and Gratia Christian College. Find other institutions with sub-degree programs in Hong Kong by going through this list.

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Public and private universities of Hong Kong

Public universities are sponsored by the University Grants Committee or government funds. UGC is a body advising Hong Kong authorities on the financing and development of higher education in the region. It subsidizes 8 universities:

UniversityFields of study
City University of Hong KongBusiness, Arts and Social Sciences, Science and Engineering, Veterinary Medicine, Law, Media studies, Energy and the Environment
Hong Kong Baptist UniversityArts, natural and social sciences, business school, Chinese medicine, communications and visual arts
Lingnan UniversityArts, Humanities, Business and Social Sciences
The Chinese University of Hong KongArts, business administration, education, engineering, law, medicine, natural and social sciences
Hong Kong University of Education

Humanities, Education and Social Sciences

Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityPrograms in applied and medical sciences, business, software engineering,civil engineering, fashion, design, tourism, languages ​​and social sciences
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Schools of Science, Technology, Business and Management, Humanities and Social Sciences
University of Hong KongArchitecture, arts, business and economics, education, engineering, law, medicine, natural and social sciences

The Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts also receives government funding, but is not a university under the Hong Kong law. The Academy implements art programs, which usually last two years.

There are only 2 private universities in Hong Kong: Hang Seng University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Shue Yan University. But there are over 150 self-funded programs at bachelor's cycle and 300 at sub-degree level (Associate's degree or Higher Diploma). They are offered in more than 30 educational institutions, both at private institutes and colleges, and state universities.

Over the past decade, Hong Kong saw an increase in the number of private educational institutions, and this has affected the growth of education. However, it is believed that private higher education institutions in Hong Kong have a harder time staying afloat compared to public ones. For example, after many years of low attendance and financial difficulties, Centennial College decided not to accept students in 2019. The overall image of private educational institutions in society is also not positive. They are perceived as institutions that neglect quality for profit, especially the value of sub-degree programs is being questioned[8].

Private institutions offering higher education
UniversityFields of study
Caritas Francis Hsu CollegeArts, social sciences and nursing
Centennial CollegeArts, accounting and social sciences
Chu Hai College of Higher EducationArts and social sciences, business, science, and technology
Gratia Christian CollegeBusiness, social sciences, and primary education specialists
Hang Seng University of Hong KongFaculties of business, communication, social and liberal arts
HKCT Hong Kong College of TechnologyBusiness, social sciences and accounting
Hong Kong Nang Yan College of Higher EducationAdministration and social work
Hong Kong Shue Yan UniversityLiberal arts, social sciences, and commerce
Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong KongDesign and environmental design, hospitality management, science, and technology
Open University of Hong KongArts and social sciences, business and management, education and linguistics, nursing and healthcare, science and technology
Yew Chung College of Early Childhood EducationEarly childhood education programs
The campus of the American college Savannah College of Art and Design is located in Hong Kong.

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Groups and associations of educational institutions

  • Shanghai-Hong Kong University Alliance (SHUA) was founded in November 2018 by 16 universities in Shanghai and Hong Kong. The goal of the SHUA alliance is to establish a closer relationship between member universities and to promote research cooperation. The alliance includes 8 Shanghai and 8 Hong Kong universities:

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    It is worth noting that CUHK has been partnering with Shanghai universities for research cooperation and academic exchange for quite a long time.

  • Mainland — Hong Kong — Macau Law Education Alliance was established in 2017. The Alliance is developing cooperation between universities in the field of law education. 9 universities became members of the Alliance, one of which is the University of Hong Kong.
  • Beijing-Hong Kong University Alliance (BHUA) was founded in April 2018 by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The alliance's activities are aimed at cooperation between universities in Beijing and Hong Kong. BHUA includes 20 universities: 8 from Hong Kong and 12 from Beijing. They collaborate in joint research projects and student exchange programs. The main objective of the alliance is to improve the quality of higher education in both cities.
  • University Alliance of the Silk Road (UASR) was established in May 2015. UASR includes over 100 institutions and NGOs from more than 22 countries and regions. UASR contributes to the development of partnerships among universities of the Silk Road route in the field of scientific, cultural and political research. The association includes City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong Baptist University, University of Hong Kong and Chinese University of Hong Kong.
  • The Association of University Presidents of China (AUPC) was founded in November 1997. The association was founded by the Presidents of a group of universities in China and approved by the State Commission for Education (now the Ministry of Education). The 10 founding members include the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. AUPC now has 12 member universities.
  • Alliance of Asian Liberal Arts Universities It was founded in November 2017 and unites the humanities universities of Asia. The AALAU includes the Lynnan University of Hong Kong. Members of the organization join forces in improving the quality of liberal arts education and exchange experience in research and teaching.
  • Asian Universities Alliance (AUA) was founded in 2017 and consists of 15 universities. The AUA brings together Asian universities and strengthens their cooperation. It includes Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
  • Universitas 21 is a platform for collaboration and exchange of experience and knowledge between students and employees of 27 world-class universities. The global network brings together over 1 million students and 200000 teaching staff for over 20 years. The network includes the University of Hong Kong.

Free universities in Hong Kong

There are no free universities in Hong Kong. However, universities, the Hong Kong SAR government and external organizations provide financial assistance to outstanding students at a bachelor’s/master’s cycle, less often — doctoral. Examples of such scholarships would be, the HKSAR Government Scholarship,The Belt and Road Scholarship, Private Higher Education Fund scholarships, and the Hong Kong PhD scholarship program. Grants partially or fully cover the cost of education, and a fellowship program for doctoral students provides an additional amount for study trips. Also, on the websites of universities there are separate sections on grants and financial assistance, which describe current opportunities for applicants in greater detail.

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Interesting facts about universities in Hong Kong

  • Higher education institutions of Hong Kong are a bridge between universities in China and the West. Advanced universities have a good reputation in the international arena and occupy high positions in world rankings. At the same time, they actively enroll Chinese students and professors and carry out joint research activities with scientists from China.
  • The motto of the University of Hong Kong consists of two parts: Chinese and Latin. Thus, they reflect a blend of Eastern and Western cultures. “Sapientia et virtus” is translated as “wisdom and virtue”, while “Mingde gewu” means “to show strength and explore the world”[3].
  • The Chinese University of Hong Kong has its own galleries and museums. The University Gallery exhibits the history and achievements of the university over the past 55 years, the Art Museum exhibits historical artifacts of China, and the archives of the Chung Chi College and New Asia History Gallery store information about the history of colleges. It also was the first in Hong Kong museum dedicated to climate change — Jockey Club Museum of Climate Change[14].
  • The University of Hong Kong has consistently received the largest number of awards among all public universities in Hong Kong. 114 professors of HKU were included in the 1% of the best scientists in the world according to Clarivate Analytics. Among them, 15 are on the list of “Highly cited researchers”[3]. Therefore, university students are lucky, they undergo research internships in the laboratories of eminent and influential professors.
  • Hong Kong Baptist University is the first university to create a low-carbon campus since 2009. HKBU conducts green events and campaigns on a regular basis. The university has received several environmental awards, including the Silver Hong Kong Award for Environmental Excellence 2011. To date, HKBU has achieved impressive results: on campus, energy and water consumption has significantly decreased, and over three years, carbon dioxide emissions have been reduced by more than 1000 tons[15].
  • The Chinese University of Hong Kong has 4 concert halls, the largest of which seats 1,438 people. The Chung Chi College Chapel even holds weddings and religious events. And the rest host lectures, ceremonies, exams and concerts[14].

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