Academic differences in Hong Kong

By Keir Burbidge, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong


I don’t think I expected studying here in Hong Kong to be so different to being in the UK. The first major difference is that I’m doing 5 units here which take up 15 hours a week here compared to 3 units and 9 hours back home… and if anybody tells you that the courses are easier here then they are either lying or on a pass/fail year! 

Even though I am doing more hours which takes up time that ideally I would be spending exploring Hong Kong, i’ve enjoyed the courses so much that it makes up for it. Doing 5 courses in the semester means that I feel like I have the opportunity to experiment a bit and do stuff that I wouldn’t have ever done in Manchester or if I had less choice. In Hong Kong you only have to do 50% of your credits from your faculty which means that you can pick from a massive range of courses, I don’t know exactly how many but it wouldn’t surprise me if it was over 100. I’m studying politics and international relations but on top of 3 courses in that area I’m doing a sociology and a philosophy one. Admittedly I haven’t branched out too far compared to some of my friends here who are taking buddhist film courses, but the sociology module is about global crime and injustice so we’ve covered topics from the global drug trade to gangs to human trafficking which is so interesting and I haven’t done anything like it before.

One of the main differences is that I feel like in the UK the onus is really on you to do your work and your grade will be decided with a piece of coursework and an exam which would be like a 40/60 split but here they take a much more pushy approach throughout the whole semester with a lot of my courses having multiple assignments with fewer words, little presentations that would make up 5 or 10% and then an exam at the end. I personally prefer having to do one big piece of coursework as opposed to doing more, smaller assignments but it isn’t something that is a big enough deal to actually bother me.

I’ve found the teaching to be pretty great here. The lectures are generally a lot smaller and there is a lot more interaction with the lecturers with parts of the lectures often being discussions. This was quite a change for me as I don’t think I’ve ever answered a question in a lecture back home! Reflecting Hong Kong’s diverse and international character, the staff at Hong Kong come from all over the world which is interesting as you can get a completely different perspectives, especially doing courses like politics where we are used to viewing the world from our Western perspective. Tutorial participation can be a bit of a slog here as a lot of the local students are quite reserved and generally don’t seem to like to speak in front of people so the tutors love having international students so be prepared to contribute more than you’ve ever done before.

It’s reading week now and I’m heading to Taiwan so I thought for my next post about having a cultural experience I could write about what I did there as one of the best parts of being in Hong Kong is being able to get a cheap flight and travel a bit. Peace.

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