University jobs in Hong Kong: everything you need to know

Hong Kong University


About higher education in Hong Kong

There are about 20 universities and higher education colleges in Hong Kong, eight of which are funded publicly by the University Grants Committee (UGC), a non-statutory advisory committee that supports the government on matters concerning funding and development of universities in Hong Kong.

About 90,000 full-time students and 3,000 part-time students enrolled at UGC-funded programmes and all these courses use English as the medium of instruction. There are 14,000 international students studying in Hong Kong, with almost 9,000 from mainland China.Tuition fees range from £7,500-12,000 per year and most undergraduate courses are four-years long, rather than the previous three. There is also a range of privately-funded institutions.

University funding and salaries in Hong Kong

Although the vice-chancellor salary data for Hong Kong universities is not publicly available, the average vice-chancellor has been estimated to earn £480,000 a year, or £40,000 per month. The average salary of an assistant professor is from £4,000 per month, an associate professor’s from £5,215 and a professor’s from £6,300. There is also often a housing allowance made available for those who do not live in staff accommodation, ranging from £1,000-2,400 per month.

Times Higher Education named Hong Kong as the third best student city in the world in 2017, with five of its universities among the top 20 universities in Asia. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and the City University of Hong Kong were included in THE’s top 10 young universities (under 50 years old) and the University of Hong Kong was named by THE as the third most international university in the world.

With a 98 per cent Chinese population, the authenticity of China is mixed with Western and multi-Asian elements brought to Hong Kong by years of foreign influence. Universities enjoy more institutional autonomy and academic freedom than almost anywhere in Asia.

In 2016, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) chose Hong Kong as the location for its start-up accelerator-style centre of innovation, which provides research opportunities for the universities. MIT and Hong Kong students collaborate physically or virtually to drive ideas towards commercialisation. Hong Kong’s status as a financial hub, its proximity to centres of innovation and its strong universities were all cited as reasons for MIT’s selection. 

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Academic careers in Hong Kong

In the past, Hong Kong followed the British system, but is moving towards the North American model with the roles of professor, associate professor and assistant professor. For world-class scholars with distinctive accomplishments, the title of chair professor may be granted on the basis of personal merit following a rigorous assessment process. Some universities have ranks lower than assistant professor such as lecturer, teaching fellow and instructor but these differ depending on the institution.

Assistant professors are expected to teach, while conducting and publishing research projects. They are initially appointed on a 3-year contract, which is renewable for another 3 years, subject to a review and mutual agreement. Associate professors spend fewer hours on undergraduate teaching, instead leading more graduate classes and advising graduate students on dissertation projects. Full professors teach for a few hours per week and take an active role in the research projects and dissertations of doctoral candidates. Opportunities for further career advancement in administration include becoming chair professor, dean of students or president.

In Hong Kong, the head of a university is known as the president or vice-chancellor. The chancellor is an outside ceremonial head, while the vice-chancellor is the on-site academic leader. They typically have a number of deputy vice-chancellors, pro-vice chancellors, associate vice presidents or provosts, who look after areas such as research, student recruitment and so on.

While permanent tenured academic opportunities are highly competitive, there is a recognised academic career path and reasonable job security in Hong Kong. Teaching at a university in Hong Kong generally requires a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree and a doctorate – typically a PhD in the chosen field. A typical academic career path evolves from the position of research assistant professor, through assistant professor to associate professor, professor and chair professor.

Other professional staff positions include working as librarians, within communications and marketing (to share the university’s brand through creation of media, design and narrative), within the human resources department (to provide HR consultation, advice and support to administrative leaders), within the academic personnel department (to deal with all matters related to recruiting, hiring, conditions of employments, leave and retirement of academic staff), within the alumni relations office and within the research grants and contracts office (to provide administrative support for the university's research activities).

Pic. credit: iStock

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