Though Hong Kong is small in terms of area, the territory is the world’s third largest global financial centre and a hub of trade, innovation and cultural exchange. This is reflected in a globally ranked higher education system, with many research opportunities for international PhD students.
This page explains what it’s like to study a PhD in Hong Kong, what opportunities are available, how to apply and how to access research funding as an international student.
Hong Kong presents a brilliant balance of academic research opportunities and extra-curricular activities. One day you may be walking the halls of your campus and the next enjoying rides and taking photos with Tigger at Disneyland Hong Kong.
All eight of Hong King’s government-funded universities receive generous support with the resources necessary to invest in excellent PhD research – and scholarships for international students.
With all of this in mind, and the fact you will be studying in one of the most famous cosmopolitan cities in the world here are a few reasons to consider a PhD in Hong Kong this year:
|Oldest University||University of Hong Kong (1911)|
|PhD Length||3-4 years|
|Typical Fees||HKD $90,000-265,000 (USD $11,581-34,100)|
|Academic Year||September to May|
For the latest information on the impact of coronavirus on studying a PhD in Hong Kong, please check the official Study in Hong Kong website for updates.
The Hong Kong higher education system is similar to the UK, where students are required to complete a Bachelors degree before proceeding on to postgraduate study.
There are only 22 universities in Hong Kong. Eight of them are funded by the University Grants Committee, one is publically-funded and the other 13 are self-financing institutions.
Several them are world ranked institutions, carry out research in major disciplines.
Hong Kong’s higher education institutions can be divided into two categories, according to the funding they receive.
It is common for international students to study at the UGC universities as these receive the Hong Kong Government scholarships. However, PhD opportunities are available at a wide range of universities in Hong Kong.
The Hong Kong Government is looking to enhance the territory’s position as an international business centre. Therefore, they have developed two key funds to develop the higher education system:
The development of funds like these demonstrate Hong Kong’s investment into postgraduate research and desire to attract exceptional international PhD students from all over the world.
Hong Kong has a number of highly ranked institutions; five of the twenty universities are ranked within the first 150 of the current QS and THE rankings. The government is seeking to improve this by introducing the funding initiatives.
|University||THE 2021||QS 2021||ARWU 2020|
|University of Hong Kong||39||22||151-200|
|Chinese University of Hong Kong||=56||43||101-150|
|The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology||=56||=27||301-400|
|City University of Hong Kong||126||48||201-300|
|Hong Kong Polytechnic University||129||75||201-300|
|Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.|
University rankings can help you choose a PhD project or programme, provided you know what to look at. Our guide explains how to use rankings as a prospective postgraduate.
In addition to the universities, Hong Kong is home to various sub-degree institutions.
Sub-degree institutions are higher education providers of associate degrees and higher diplomas. Some also offer Masters courses, but they are not centres for PhD research.
The core component of a Hong Kong PhD programme is similar to that of the UK and other countries. You will submit and defend a thesis detailing the research you have conducted.
The majority of Hong Kong doctoral programmes are three or four years full-time depending on your previous qualifications. The three-year programme is for students who have a research Masters (such as an MRes). Whereas the four-year programme, is for those with a first in their Bachelors and/or Masters degree.
There is an option for international students to study part-time. However, in order to comply with visa restrictions, the course must be taken in a UGC funded university. A three-year part-time programme is typically 54 months and a four-year part-time programme 72 months.
The full-time academic year consists of two semesters: fall (September-November) and spring (January-April).
The content of PhD degrees in Hong Kong may vary depending upon the discipline and institution. However, unlike in the UK, some of the courses include compulsory teaching modules.
Students are typically registered provisionally under a probation period. For 4-year programmes this is 18-months and for 3-year it is 12-months. You will have to submit a detailed scheme of work before the end of this probation period. At this point your candidature will be confirmed or terminated (similarly to the UK confirmation review).
The 4-year PhD programme involves both study and research. You may be required to attend courses relevant to your discipline as well as core Graduate School courses. The courses are assessed from coursework.
A 3-year programme doesn’t involve mandatory courses on specific topics; but, students can still attend courses if they want to. It does include one compulsory module on research ethics (similar to other countries).
Both programmes are completed via submission of a thesis and you must complete an intent to submit thesis 3-months prior to submission. The thesis defence is similar to the UK with an internal and external examiner.
In Hong Kong there is no standard tuition fee cap and universities charge a significantly higher rate for international students.
However, as with the UK there are a number of scholarship programmes, or options to work part-time making Hong Kong an affordable option for PhD study abroad.
As the universities are private or autonomous government funded institutions fees vary. You can expect to pay between HKD $90,000-$265,000 (USD $11,581-$34,100) a year for tuition fees. These are typically paid in two instalments per year.
You can check fees for specific PhDs in Hong Kong by looking at the opportunities listed here on FindAPhD. Or you can access the information on your chosen university's website.
Known as Asia’s world city, Hong Kong is a vibrant place to live during a PhD. However, the city is also one of the world’s most expensive.
There are a number of costs other than tuition you will need to account for:
For more information, see the official guidelines provided by the Hong Kong Government.
Accomodation can be expensive in Hong Kong and it books up very fast. Making arrangements in advance such as securing on-campus accomodation could save you a lot of money during your PhD study abroad.
As the costs of tuition fees for international students are quite high, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government (HKSAR) awards a number of scholarships which non-local students can apply for.
The scholarships are for outstanding students studying in one of the eight UGC-funded universities.
If a student is enrolled on a PhD that is more than three years, they should apply to their institution for additional financial support.
If you are unsuccessful in securing the Government Scholarship, you may have the opportunity to apply for university scholarships.
A number of institutions offer full and half-fee tuition scholarships. On-top of this some will have a top scholarship delegated to outstanding international students. This covers annual tuition fees, on-campus accommodation and a living stipend.
Because universities in Hong Kong are striving to increase diversity on campus and improve their international research projects a number of universities have introduced an international student grant. Any student is eligible, except those in receipt of the top scholarship. The grants on average provide the student with HKD $30,000 (USD $3,860) per year.
For more information and for applications check your university’s website.
As there are only a small number of universities within Hong Kong there is no centralised application service. You should apply directly to your university of choice ensuring you meet their requirements.
Different institutions and programmes will have their own requirements but there are a couple of key things most will require:
The majority of courses are taught in English within Hong Kong. With the exception of some short courses taught in Mandarin (not applicable for PhD students).
Therefore, language requirements are only applicable to students where their undergraduate teaching and examinations were not in English. These students must complete one of the following English language tests:
In Hong Kong students are required to research different institutions and supervisors before filling out formal applications.
You must email a prospective supervisor to discuss research areas and gain approval to supervise a thesis. Following this there are several application steps you must complete:
Formal applications are usually open from September-December the year before the prospective start date, with some institutions allowing PhD applications 3 months prior to the start date.
Depending upon your application and the institution you may be invited for an interview. If you are an overseas student with a long travel time the interview will typically be conducted over video or web chat.
However, it is not unheard of for prospective international students to be flown out for 3-4 days for a tour and interview process.
Interviews tend to follow a typical structure including: a description of yourself, previous research, strengths/weaknesses and questions on their research.
Nationals of 170 countries and territories can visit Hong Kong without a visa for 7-180 days (UK-180 days, US/Europe- 90 days). However, for PhD study you will need to obtain a student visa and you must have been accepted to a university to apply for one.
Before filling out a visa application contact your institution as you will need a local sponsor (the institution will arrange this). Also, many institutions will either complete international student’s visas for them or offer help with the application process.
It is recommended that you apply for your visa as soon as your study is confirmed; typically, it takes 6 weeks to process a visa application for study provided you submit the following documents:
The Government of Hong Kong supply a visa application guidebook for international students. Applications can be submitted by post to the HKSAR Receipt and Despatch Sub-Unit or to the nearest Chinese diplomatic and consular mission in your residing country.
All Hong Kong residents who are permitted to stay in Hong Kong for more than 180 days must apply for a Hong Kong identity card (HKID).
International students are required to apply for a HKID at the Immigration Department within 30-days of their arrival. You can book an advanced appointment using the Immigration Department's 24-hour Appointment Booking Service for Hong Kong Smart Identity Card applications, using your passport number as the number of the identity document.
Applications are free and typically take 10 days to process and once received you are required dot carry the card at all times! It will allow you to use the government medical services at the local rate.
In the past students were not allowed to work during their study period. However, in recent years, the Government have made a number of exceptions. Making it easier for international students to fund study and living costs.
Before taking up paid work you should check with your university as to whether you are allowed and to make sure it fits your visa requirements.
Hong Kong is very popular with international students, with a strong economy, vibrant culture and excellent research institutions. All of this means you will definitely enjoy your PhD experience. But where will you go next?
Hong Kong encourages international graduates to remain after graduation.
The Government has introduced the Immigration Arrangement for Non-Local Graduates. International students who have completed a full-time degree in Hong Kong may apply to stay/return and work in Hong Kong. Applications are submitted on the immigration departments website.
Graduates who submit their application within 6-months of graduation are classed as fresh and can be granted 12 months stay with no restrictions. Those who have not graduated yet may apply for an extension of stay whilst they wait for their results.
Graduates who submit applications beyond 6-months of their graduation are classified as returning. Returning international graduates are required to secure an offer of employment upon application and may be granted 12 months stay with no restrictions. The job must be to the standard of a graduate at their level.
To increase your stay past the 12-month period, as long as you have secured work, you can apply for a General Employment Policy Visa.
Last updated - 23/10/2020