This is a follow-up post to a previous post “The International Student Experience in Hong Kong (& HKUST)” after I received a few questions and queries by email. I’ll try to address those each topic at the time.
Disclaimer – Please note that my perspective is limited to my studies as a post-grad PhD student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and only reflects my impressions and experience after a single semester.
So, following are some quick notes about things you might want to think about when you consider studying as an international student in Hong Kong.
I’ll start with some of the basics. No, you don’t need to have a masters degree to go for a PhD, atleast not when it comes to the field I’m in in the university I study with – Management at the HKUST Business School. Being generally younger than other universities, HKUST seems to follow more of the American system while some of the other HK universities follow the British system of MPhil and then a PhD. In general, and this is a big generalization, there are two directions to think about – a practical masters degree or a more research oriented MPhil and then PhD. The one isn’t necessary for the other, and so – when you graduated from your undergrads you can choose either direction. This is quite different from Israel, some of the European countries or as far as I know in Asia – Taiwan, where a masters degree is a requirement for a PhD degree. What you would need to show the PhD committee when you apply will be more about your achievements in your undergrad degree, your TOEFL/GMAT scores and your academic direction, and less about your work experience and practical skills. What this also means, is that the PhD program usually includes 1-2 years of intense courses where you are trained as a researcher. The other more social implications, in case you’re wondering, are that most of the PhD students are very young (we got one who is 23) and that most of them have little to no working experience.
If you do have a masters, especially one that’s somehow related to what you study, then you could ask for a course waiver or a credit transfer. Personally, the fact that I’ve done an MBA has helped me in transferring most (or the maximum) of what is transferrable at my university. Which is to say, that unlike other institutions I’ve visited elsewhere, they won’t make you study things you’ve studied before for the sake of bureaucracy, something that I’m very grateful for. I would strongly recommend you look into this before arriving at your school, and that you take care of it as soon as you arrive so that you’ll be able to better plan your courses.
I can’t say much about this from personal experience, but from the little I know, many undergrads go for an exchange semester during their 5th semester (out of required 6 semesters) and almost all MBAs go for an exchange in their last semester (out of 3 required), most – if not all – with excellent universities across the world. A research exchange is also possible for PhDs, usually during their 3rd or 4th year (after the qualifying exam), but that’s slightly more tricky as it’s more related to your line of work and the professors you wish to work with. This year, 7 PhD students from the Business School went on a research exchange. I believe almost all of those exchanges are supported by a university scholarship on top of your studentship (if you have one) and the tuition you pay is for the local university only.
HK’s small and expensive, and dorms are not that easy to come by. HKU students battle for dorms that can only last up to 2 years, and people I know – some PhD students – get rejections and are forced to find their own solutions. HKUST is doing slightly better for PhDs. but for masters and undergrads this could be a problem. If you’re an international student or a PhD, most chances are that they’ll accommodate you. Even if you can’t find a place, housing office would usually help find something within reasonable range of prices.
When it comes to quality, well, there are all kinds, but in general – I’ve seen nicer dorms. Regular halls are usually 2-3 people in a room with shared hall toilets/showers and very basic floor kitchen, where the most up-market university solution might be more of a single room in a 4 room flat. Stereotypically speaking, UG halls are crowded, lively, noisy and perhaps more “exciting”, with very active hall life, while PG and the more up-market halls are so quiet and lifeless you’ll start doubting there’s anybody actually living there. The variations in prices between halls, BTW, could make a difference with those on a budget.
That’s it for now. Still a few issues more on the questions queue. Hopefully, next time.