Hong Kong - Country Commercial Guide
Education and Training

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-03-04






2020 (estimated)

Hong Kong Students in the US





Macau Students in the US





Data Sources: Open Doors Report from IIE, EducationUSA

Hong Kong’s education system, which went through a major restructuring initiative from 2008 to 2012, is now comprised of three years of junior secondary school followed by three years of senior secondary schooling. Upon graduation, Hong Kong students sit for the HKDSE (Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education) exam, which allows students to gain admission to a range of post-secondary university, vocational, and tertiary courses offered by local schools based on their examination results.

Given the highly qualified and sophisticated applicant pool, Hong Kong’s university selection process is extremely competitive. Only 18 percent of Hong Kong applicants gain admission to local universities. As such, there is tremendous interest in studying abroad.  A total of 6,917 Hong Kong students studied in the United States during the 2018/2019 academic year, of which 59.2 percent were undergraduate students.

According to the data from UNESCO, 36,442 Hong Kong students are studying abroad at present. Those in the UK account for the largest number, followed by Australia, the U.S., and Canada. Less significant numbers of students also study in nearby Macau, South Korea, Germany, and Ireland.

Leading Sub-Sectors

There is high demand among Hong Kong students to study in U.S. four-year undergraduate programs. Although there are a number of Hong Kong students who meet the requirements to enter into Hong Kong universities, many still cannot gain admission to local universities due to the limited availability of seats. In addition, students may not be accepted into their preferred programs, as some of the more popular subjects like business, finance, economics, and law can be highly competitive.

There is also a growing number of Hong Kong parents interested in finding opportunities for their children to study in U.S. boarding schools and starting at an earlier age than was historically the case (Grade 7 or 8). This trend is partly driven by the fact that some parents and students feel that a private boarding school education can equip them with academic, cultural, and linguistic skills that may improve their chances of entering colleges and universities in the United States.

Apart from four-year colleges, there is also an emerging market for two-year community colleges. Hong Kong students tend to be more interested in community colleges with guaranteed transferable credits to universities, particularly those schools with established paths to transfer to top four- year colleges in the United States.  We anticipate increased demand from Hong Kong students to pursue educational opportunities in overseas undergraduate programs, boarding schools, community colleges, and other academic programs, and the United States remains a desired destination for overseas study. 


Many Hong Kong high school graduates believe that a U.S. education will boost their job prospects upon their return to Hong Kong. More Hong Kong parents are also beginning to recognize the academic excellence and opportunities provided by colleges and universities outside the Ivy League or other schools that traditionally have high name recognition in Hong Kong. This is the result of an increasing number of American institutions attending Hong Kong education shows, promoting themselves to Hong Kong parents, students, and high school administrators and career counselors.

Ideally, new-to-market schools should try to meet with high school counselors, parents, students face-to-face to gain exposure, answer questions, and raise their profile. Word of mouth is also a significant factor in decision-making about where to study overseas. A growing number of colleges and universities are increasingly relying on their Hong Kong alumni as a channel to reach potential students.

Hong Kong parents commonly employ educational agents to search for appropriate schools and provide other related services. U.S. schools should consider partnering with a range of agents in Hong Kong that are capable of promoting their schools and recruiting students. The U.S. Commercial Service in Hong Kong can provide U.S. schools with pre-screened meetings with agents and high schools.

The U.S. Commercial Service also organizes quarterly Regional Virtual Education Fairs to promote U.S. academic institutions to high school counsellors, education agencies, parents, and students in Hong Kong, China, and Southeast Asian countries. Participation in these fairs allows U.S. academic institutions to gain access to a large pool of prospective students without physically traveling to Hong Kong. U.S. academic institutions receive a welcome kit after the Virtual Education Fair that includes background and contacts of high school counsellors and agents in Hong Kong.

The State Department’s Education USA program has a strong network of local secondary schools. EducationUSA advisors can serve as a resource, providing information on education trends, recruiting strategies, contacts, etc. for U.S. higher education representatives. We encourage U.S. academic institutions to consider partnering with Education USA to coordinate outreach visits, presentations, seminars, teacher workshops, and other opportunities to raise your school’s profile in Hong Kong.


Trade Fairs:

Education and Career Expo (annual)

Hong Kong International Education Expo (annual)


Government Agencies:

Government Education Bureau



For more information about this industry sector, please contact:

U.S. Commercial Service, Hong Kong

Joanna Lam, Commercial Specialist

Email: joanna.lam@trade.gov