Life Planning Information Website - Education Bureau

The Education System

Children in the UK normally start school at the age of five, sit for the GCSE Examination or Scottish Standard Grade at 16 and GCE A-level Examination or Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher level at 18. Many continue to pursue higher education provided at universities and colleges.


(a) Independent Schools

These schools provide education for students aged between 5 and 18. There is a strict age limit and students normally sit for GCSE, Scottish Standard Grade or Intermediate 1 and 2 at 16 and GCE A-level or Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher level at 18. Some schools offer International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma as an alternative to GCE A-level. Most independent schools have boarding facilities that are available for students over the age of eight.


(b) Independent Colleges

These are private colleges and accept students aged 16 or above. Teaching is carried out in small groups. Boarding facilities are sometimes available.


(c) Further Education (FE) Colleges

These colleges offer a full range of academic, vocational and professional courses for students aged 16 or above. Qualifications include: GCSEs, Scottish Standard Grades or Intermediate 1 and 2, Scottish Higher / Advanced Higher level, GCE A-levels, BTEC / OCR certificates / diplomas, foundation degrees, professional courses and access / foundation courses. Boarding facilities are available at some colleges.


(d) Higher Education (HE) Institutions

Undergraduate, postgraduate, foundation courses, foundation degree as well as Higher National Diploma courses are offered in these institutions.


(e) Universities

Both undergraduate and postgraduate courses are offered at universities.


Courses Available

For ease of reference, general information about the courses available is summarised below:

Level of Studies and Duration

General Entry Requirement

Type of Institution

Tuition Fees

GCSE*, Scottish Standard Grade or Intermediate 1 & 2 (2 years)

Entrance tests, school reports, references and interviews

Independent schools and colleges

FE colleges

Private or state sixth form college


GCE* A-level, Scottish Higher or Advanced Higher, IB Diploma (2 years)

Entrance tests, school reports, references and interviews


International foundation programme

HKDSE three subjects at Level 2,2,2 - 4,3,3

and IELTS 5.0

FE colleges

HE institutions


International foundation and diploma programmes



International diploma

HKDSE three subjects at Level 3,3,3 - 4,4,4

and IELTS 5.5

Foundation degree, HND (Higher National Diploma) (2 years)

HKDSE three subjects at Level 3,3,3 or above

and IELTS 5.5


First degree courses (Clinical: 5-6 years / Engineering: 4 years / Others: 3-4 years)

HKDSE three subjects at Level 4,3,3 to 5**,5,5

and English at Level 4 or IELTS 6.0

HE institutions


Undergraduate courses

£9,000-£26,000 (Classroom based)

£10,400-£37,700 (Laboratory based)

£10,500-£58,600 (Clinical courses)


Postgraduate Course

(MA / MSc / MPhil: 1-2 years
PhD: 3 years+)

A bachelor degree in relevant subject


£6,200-£34,200 (MA, MSc, MPhil/MRes)

£11,500-£44,500 (Clinical)

£8,500-£55,000 (MBA)


*GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education)

*GCE (General Certificate of Education)

(Note: Students should check details with individual institutions before making an application.)



Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) Tariff for Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE)

The HKDSE is included in the UCAS Tariff, which compares it with GCE A-levels. Most UK universities have announced that they will accept HKDSE students for direct entry to undergraduate courses with results  of HKDSE three subjects ranging from 4,3,3 to 5**,5,5. In addition, Applied Learning subjects that are ‘Attained with Distinction’ may be accepted as equivalent to Level 3. UK universities and colleges may use UCAS Tariff as a reference to make admissions decisions.


Please visit the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority website at 

for more details about the general admission requirements for HKDSE from a number of UK institutions.


Application Procedures

(a) Independent Schools & Colleges

Students can apply to schools of their choice directly, at least one year before the course starts.


(b) Further Education Colleges

Applications should be sent direct to the institutions.


(c) Higher Education Institutions, Including Universities

For undergraduate courses, students should apply online at UCAS website at For postgraduate programmes, students can apply to the institutions directly or through the UKPASS system provided by UCAS. Please refer to for details.



Studying in the UK is good value for money and exchange rate fluctuations have made the UK even better value for many international students. UK master’s degrees can also be completed in one year, meaning lower living costs and faster entry into employment.


Use the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) international student budget calculator to help you plan your budget:


Fees for UK courses vary, depending on:

·        whether you are from the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), or another country;

·        where in the UK you are studying (there are different rules for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales);

·        your study level.

Note that fees for students from outside the EU are decided at an institutional level, so you will need to check with the university or college you wish to attend.


(a) Scholarships and financial support

There are hundreds of scholarships, bursaries and grant schemes on offer for students who need extra support to pay for their UK course. Many institutions offer their own scholarships and bursaries – check the university’s website for more information.


(b) Global scholarships

You can apply for any of the following scholarships, provided they are appropriate for your course.

·        Chevening Award: Postgraduate scholarships from the UK government aimed at students with potential as future leaders:

·        Commonwealth Scholarship and Fellowship Plan: Postgraduate scholarships for nationals of Commonwealth countries, funded by the UK government and intended to support individuals who will subsequently make a contribution to the development of their home country:

(c) Country-specific scholarships and funding

There are many different scholarships available, some of which depend on where you are from.


For more information please visit:


Student Visa

All students, including HKSAR or BN(O) passport holders, need to apply for a student visa under Tier 4 of the Points Based System if they intend to study in the UK for more than six months. Parents and students need to fully understand the Points Based System so they can make preparations well in advance to ensure visas can be issued before the start of term.


Students need 40 points to qualify for a Tier 4 student visa. To qualify you will need to:

  • Obtain a valid Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) from a licensed sponsor (the institution you will be studying at) and other supporting documents – 30 points
  • Fulfil the financial maintenance requirements - 10 points

For more information, please refer to for the latest visa application information.

If you are 16 or over and want to study at higher education level, you will need to apply for a Tier 4 (General) student visa. 


How to apply for a student visa


The following documents are usually required, though this will vary depending on your country:

·        A confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) reference number from your university or college.

·        Evidence you can pay for your course and living costs.

·        Original educational certificates.


·        Apply, pay and book your visa appointment online.

·        Submit your application at the Visa Application Centre (VAC) along with your supporting documents.

·        Your fingerprints will be taken at the VAC and you may need to sit a video interview.


How long will it take to get my visa?

UK Visas and Immigration aims to process student visas within 15 working days. You are recommended to prepare and apply for your visa well in advance. You can make an application up to three months before you intend to travel. If you need a visa quickly, you can pay for the Priority Service.

In addition, a minimum level of English language is required by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for adult students - IELTS 4.0 or equivalent (for courses below degree level) and IELTS 5.5 or equivalent (for courses at degree level or above).

Applicants should first fill out and submit an online application form at,and book an appointment to have their biometrics taken at the Visa Application Centre in Hong Kong.

Students holding Hong Kong SAR and BN(O) passports will benefit from a streamlined application process in which they will generally not be expected to provide documentary evidence of financial maintenance and education qualifications.

Applicants can apply up to three months in advance of their expected date of travel. They should lodge their applications as soon as possible and allow at least 15 working days from the date of submission at the Visa Application Centre for an outcome (especially during the summer peak period).

Full details of the requirements can be found at Parents and students should read all information carefully to ensure they fully comply before submitting an application.


Working While Studying

During term time you can work for up to 20 hours a week if you are studying at degree level or above at a higher education institution; or up to 10 hours a week if you are studying a course that is below degree level at a higher education institution or any level at a publicly funded further education college. Students can work full-time during holidays.

Find out more about the hours and types of work you can do on the UKCISA website:


General information

British Council
Email :

Website :

(British Council Hong Kong does not offer individual consultation service on UK education, except at education events.)


The latest information and advice for international students from the UK Government on Covid-19 :


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