Competition for Hong Kong university spots dips as 1,100 fewer entrance exam takers meet minimum requirements

More than 1,100 fewer would-be students will compete for placements at Hong Kong’s eight publicly funded universities this year, as the number meeting the Diploma of Secondary Education (DSE) exam’s minimum requirements dropped nearly 6 per cent from 2019.
The Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority on Tuesday also announced that only seven who sat for this year’s exam achieved a perfect score across its seven subjects, down from 12 in 2019.
Of the 50,000 full-time and part-time candidates who sat the exam, about 45,000 are day school candidates, those who recently completed their secondary education.
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Among that group, 18,572 achieved the minimum requirement for local undergraduate programmes, a 5.6 per cent drop from last year’s 19,676. They will compete for just 15,000 subsidised local first-year degree places.
“With the decrease of eligible students, obviously, I think it would be easier (to enter local universities) to some extent,” said Dr So Kwok-sang, the exam authority’s secretary general.
“But it (still) really depends what programme choice the candidates’ take … the choice of the programme, the various criteria in terms of admission, would impact on actual or final outcomes of the admission figures.”
The authority also revealed on Tuesday that four male and three female students had attained a level 5** ” the highest score possible ” across all seven DSE subjects. Two of that group also earned a level 5** in an extended mathematics module elective.
Two students with special educational needs attained 5** in six subjects.
This year’s exams, originally scheduled to take place in March, were delayed by a month because of the Covid-19 pandemic. When they finally did take place, about 310 candidates were absent due to illnesses or other issues, and applied for assessed results.
The exam authority said there was no significant change in the overall performance in the English and Chinese-language exams, despite the cancellation of oral exams in those subjects due to the pandemic.
In the history subject elective exam, sat by 5,000 candidates, one compulsory question asking candidates whether they agreed Japan “did more good than harm to China” in the first half of the 20th century was scrapped after sparking outrage from Beijing’s foreign affairs arm in the city and pro-establishment lawmakers.
The Education Bureau ultimately took the unprecedented step of asking the exam authority to disqualify the question, which they did following lengthy meetings about a week later.
The authority on Tuesday said the 5,000 candidates’ history grades were largely unaffected following adjustments to the grading scheme. Still, grades for those attaining level 3 in the history portion dropped by about three percentage points this year, to 74.6 per cent.
The 50,000 candidates marked a record low to sit the DSE exams since they were first introduced in 2012, a reflection of the city’s shrinking number of high school students in recent years.
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