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.

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.

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.

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.

Higher Education (HE) Institutions

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


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 Fee

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

Average annual tuition fee and boarding fee: £31,854

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

Entrance tests, school reports, references and interviews

 Average annual tuition fee and boarding fee: £33,729

International foundation programme

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

and IELTS 5.0

FE colleges

HE institutions


Annual tuition fee: £6,000-£19,500

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

Annual tuition fee: £9,200-£12,400

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


Clinical: £10,500-£49,600

Others: £9,700-£33,950

Postgraduate Course

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

A bachelor degree in relevant subject

MBA: £8,100-£49,000
Clinical: £9,700-£40,750
Others: £9,900-£31,608


GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education)


GCE (General Certificate of Education)

(Note: Students should check details with individual institutions before making an application. The above annual tuition fees are for reference only.)


Living Costs

The UK Border Agency requires you to show that you have £1,265 per month if you are living in London or £1,015 if you are living outside London. In addition you must show that you can cover your course fees for the first year.

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

Application Procedures
Independent Schools & Colleges

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

Further Education Colleges

Applications should be sent direct to the institutions.

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.

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

In addition, a minimum level of English language is required by UKBA for adult students - IELTS 4.0 or equilvalent (for courses below degree level) and IELTS 5.5 or equilvalent (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.

Working in the United Kingdom

Working in the UK after you graduate is a great way to start your career and gain experience in an international environment. If you want to work in the UK after your studies, there are a number of different visa options that you may be eligible to apply for:


Tier 2 (General) visa


If you want to work in the UK after your studies, you may be able to apply for a Tier 2 (General) visa from within the UK before your valid student visa expires. Graduates must have successfully completed and passed a recognised bachelor’s or master’s degree, a PGCE or PGDE or completed a minimum of 12 months study towards a UK PhD. You can only apply if you have an offer for a skilled job from an employer who has a Tier 2 sponsor license with a salary of at least £20,800 per year, or the minimum appropriate rate set out by the Home Office in the relevant Code of Practice for Skilled Workers, whichever is the higher. 


Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa


This category allows graduates who have been identified by their institution or UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) as having innovative ideas or entrepreneurial skills to extend their stay in the UK after graduation by setting up a business in the UK. They must have been awarded a recognised UK bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, MBA or PhD. 


Doctorate Extension Scheme (Tier 4)


If you are following a course leading to the award of a PhD with a Tier 4 sponsor, you can apply for the Doctorate Extension Scheme to stay in the UK for 12 months after your studies. Once you have successfully completed your PhD there will be fewer restrictions on the work you can do and you can use the 12 months to gain further experience in your chosen field, seek skilled work, or develop plans to set up as an entrepreneur.


Tier 5 (Youth Mobility Scheme) visa 


From January 2014, Hong Kong has become a participant in the UK’s Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme. The scheme allows 1,000 young Hong Kong people, aged between 18 and 30, each year to travel on HKSAR passports to live, work or study in the UK for up to two years.


Before making a Youth Mobility Scheme visa application, HKSAR passport holders must obtain a ‘Certificate of Sponsorship’ (CoS) from the Hong Kong Labour Department. Details of the CoS registration are available on the Hong Kong Labour Department’s website at


For details, visit or refer to the UKCISA guidance notes ‘Working in the UK after your studies’ at



British Council
3 Supreme Court Road, Admiralty, Hong Kong 

Tel : 2913 5100 
Email : 
Website :

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

Useful Information

Seminars on Non-local Further Studies 2017 – United Kingdom

Study in the United Kingdom


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