Studying in Asia – Hong Kong or Singapore?

Compare universities in Hong Kong and Singapore and discover the different opportunities if you want to study in Asia.

May 13 2016
Singapore Skyline

Asia is still the fastest growing economy in the world. Many employers are expanding into Asia, and entrepreneurial opportunities are wide open. The region is also home to awe-inspiring adventure destinations and many interesting cultures. Asia’s exciting environment and excellent prospects have attracted students from around the world for tertiary education, be it undergraduate or postgraduate studies. If you are thinking of studying in an internationally recognised university in Asia, there are high chances that the two former British colonies, Hong Kong and Singapore, will be on your list.

Hong Kong and Singapore are both very international with extensive global connections. And yes, you can get around by speaking only English. Both places have a modern city landscape and easy transport access. Different companies are headquartered in Hong Kong and Singapore, making job prospects after graduation quite positive. Many of the universities in Singapore and Hong Kong are listed in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings: six Hong Kong universities and two Singaporean ones are among the top 400. Degrees offered by universities in Hong Kong and Singapore are internationally recognised, so it does not matter if international students intend to work elsewhere after graduation. Hong Kong and Singaporean universities are research-based and have high standards of teaching and learning. The cost of studying in these two places is more or less the same.

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Hong Kong is an ideal gateway to China. You will be able to learn about most things related to China (history, culture, business and so on) in Hong Kong without the need to pick up Mandarin Chinese from scratch. That said, Hong Kong is also a great place to start learning Mandarin Chinese, having abundant resources and training centres. Universities in Hong Kong offer a variety of degrees: associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral. A typical undergraduate degree programme in Hong Kong lasts for four years, but can be made shorter for those accepted with Advanced Standing. With internationalisation efforts made by the Hong Kong government and universities, both parties are generous in handing out scholarships to students based on merit and other accomplishments to attract global talent. Scholarships and funding for international students have increased year by year, and the quota limits of international students have doubled since the government’s education policy reform in 2007 to establish Hong Kong as a regional education hub.

Singapore is a very disciplined, neat and clean place to live in. It has a number of official languages in addition to English: Malay, Tamil and Mandarin Chinese. You may learn these languages just by going around Singapore. Universities there offer a variety of degrees: diploma, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral. Singaporean universities also have a tight network with top universities abroad, resulting in cross-bred universities in Singapore such as Yale-NUS (Yale-National University of Singapore), Duke-NUS, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (Imperial College London and Nanyang Technological University) and many others. In these institutions, we can pursue degrees in Singapore with the world’s top universities’ programmes. The government of Singapore and the universities also provide many scholarships opportunities for international students.

I can attest that, as in other Asian institutions, studying in a university in Hong Kong or Singapore is very demanding. I witness this at first-hand while discussing the workload and stress with my close friends and acquaintances who are currently studying in Australia, the US, the UK and Singapore. It seems that my friend who was studying in Singapore and I expressed the most heightened level of stress and competition at school. I thought that was our problem alone, but after discussion with other friends who have had a similar conversations with their peers, they also agreed. I think this may be because Asian culture tends to overemphasise passing courses with flying colours as a measure of success. Even though it was tough, after my bachelor’s degree graduation I realised that it was worth it. After all, what does not kill you makes you stronger.

Once Hong Kong and Singapore are on your study destination list, you are a step away from experiencing an unforgettable world-class education experience and life adventure. Your choice between Hong Kong and Singapore will be highly dependent on the university of your choice and other personal preferences. Good luck!

Melisa Junata is from Jakarta, Indonesia. Currently, she is an MPhil student at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), where she is doing research in the field of stroke rehabilitation engineering.

Reader's comments (3)

Just a small comment. "Hong Kong is also a great place to start learning Mandarin Chinese" is so incorrect. Anyone who has been to HK, knows very well that Mandarin Chinese is hardly spoken there. Although local schools already have Mandarin lessons in place for some years, but until this present moment only a very minority can speak decent Mandarin, others are still struggling greatly. HK is a great place to learn Cantonese, certainly NOT Mandarin.
My guess is the author of this article may not speak both Cantonese and Mandarin.
Singapore is a very demanding place to study.But if you want to really enjoy your student days, Malaysia is much more enjoyable and international place and Kuala Lumpur is a very cosmopolitan Asian city.University Malaya, UTM, UKM and USM and UPM are quite good universities and very international. If you are a Muslim ,than IIUM is an excellent international campus attracting students from all over the Muslim world.

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