study in Hong Kong
Source: Isaac Lawrence/AFP

There is no need to permanently shelve plans to study abroad even though there is a pandemic. Aspiring international students may want to look East — more specifically, study abroad in Hong Kong — once the dust settles.

It’s uncertain how long it will take before there is a COVID-19 vaccine. Most experts believe a vaccine won’t be ready until well into 2021, while some like business magnate and philanthropist Bill Gates is more optimistic thinks COVID-19 will be over by the end of next year.

That’s not too far away for international students to start considering Hong Kong as their study abroad destination. Part of China under a “one country, two systems” policy, Hong Kong has much to offer to international students.

Tuition fees are relatively low by international standards, while many of their universities are also making a mark in world university rankings. These institutions boast strong industry connections while its reputation as an international financial centre has made it attractive to many expats who call the city home. 

Hong Kong’s strategic location, nestled between the East and West, also makes it an ideal destination for international students who want a fusion of local and international cultures submerged into one. Job opportunities could potentially be more wide-ranging too. However, one important question before booking your Cathay Pacific ticket: Can you afford to study abroad in Hong Kong? 

Tuition fees

Hong Kong’s education standards are internationally-respected, but tuition fees are relatively affordable compared to their counterparts in the rich countries in theWest. For instance, international students in the US pay an average of US$26,290 for undergraduate tuition and required fees at public four-year institutions in 2018/19, according to data from the National Center of Education Statistics. Tuition fees have been steadily rising each year.

In comparison, the tuition fees for undergraduate admissions at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) for international students is 145,000 Hong Kong dollars (US$19,000) per annum; while the figure is approximately HK$171,000 (US$22,000) per year at the University of Hong Kong.

Both universities are in the top 10 of the Times Higher Education (THE) Asian University Rankings 2019.

Cost of living

Many may compare living in Hong Kong to be on par with the likes of New York or London. 

Despite being a relatively expensive place to live in, especially for rent, it goes without saying that your lifestyle choices indubitably affects your cost of living. Keeping a budget can help you manage your living expenses more effectively. Study in Hong Kong notes that student discounts are available for essentials, including transportation and even arts and cultural events. 

They add that students can expect to pay HK$5,000 (about US$650) to HK$15,000 (around US$2,000) per semester for university-provided residence halls or hostels, while students should also allow for HK$30,000 to HK$50,000 (US$3,900 to US$6,500) per year for other living costs, including food, leisure, transportation, and personal items. For comparison, THE notes that on-campus dormitory rooms in the US averaged between US$5,304 and US$8,161, including all utilities and housing-related costs. 

Reports suggest a meal could cost about HKD$50 to HK$82 (US$7 to US$11), depending on the district; a monthly travel pass may cost you approximately HKD$500 (USD $65); and monthly utilities may set you back around HKD $1,577 (US$200). As an international student, you may be eligible for part-time on-campus employment to help buffer your expenses.

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