Hong Kong Vs. Overseas

Studying Art & Design in Hong Kong Vs. Overseas

Article : Ian Tsang          Edited : Konrede Limited           Date : Feb 2019

Tertiary education is an important topic as it changes one’s life. All industries are getting more competitive and such qualifications become very common. As discussed in a previous article, Hong Kong’s environment is not very feasible to study Art & Design in general. Statistics of the 2018 HKDSE exam have shown that on average 1.6 qualified students were competing for a place in the local universities which are funded by the government. The competition varied from subject to subject, for example, a Design bachelor degree in The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), on average 17.2 students were competing for just one place.

Based on statistics, the competition can be very fierce in Hong Kong. If students decide to study overseas, most would prefer UK, USA or Australia because their academic excellences, learning environments and cultures.  According to QS World University Rankings by Subject (2018), out of the top 30 Art & Design schools in the world, 14 of them are located in the USA and 20 out of 30 are in these 3 countries. The University of Hong Kong (HKU) is ranked 12th globally for Architecture and PolyU is ranked 24th globally for Art & Design. It shows that students have very limited choices if they wish to study in top Art & Design schools locally.

These factors encourage students to pursue tertiary education overseas. When selecting an Art & Design institute, it is important to look at the cultural influence, because it affects the school’s philosophy and its academic emphases; hence the teaching styles and contents may differ. In general, USA institutes tend to focus more on the final pieces and the academic environment is less competitive than Hong Kong or UK. They tend to emphasise creativity over technical skills, so it is possible for someone to enter an Art & Design course with an unrelated background, as long as the portfolio is strong enough. UK institutes tend to be more academically oriented and focus more on the process of creation. When students apply to their courses, they value relevant academic background more and subsequently developing stronger practical skills.

Hong Kong’s culture is a lot more conservative, which is strongly influenced by its culture and environment. It is hard to quantify the value of art. As a financial hub, it puts greater emphases on effectiveness and results. The process is often neglected and the final products lack thorough development. Market needs change over time and previous designs might be outdated, this defies the purpose of Art & Design: think creatively and find effective solutions to problems. Hong Kong students’ technical skills are undeniably strong, but these skills can be acquired with training, whereas, creative thinking is a lot harder to train. 

Overall, foreign art institutes tend to value the process of creation, the freedom of creative thinking and experimenting, i.e. from developing concept up to creation of final piece. Students are likely to encounter challenges which are great chances to learn and improve. Studying overseas is a great opportunity to broaden horizons and experiences, but students need to be aware of cultural differences and prepare themselves mentally. Language barrier and living style are two common examples, which students may find challenging to adapt to.

Whether studying in Hong Kong or overseas, a solid skill set is essential for entering top Art & Design schools. Ideally, students should start to plan at an early stage, e.g. when they enter secondary schools, because skills take time to practise and develop. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses is pivotal to university application. It is often better to choose a subject of personal interest because it will be a lot easier to sustain the motivation, while career prospects should be considered prior to entering a course. It is best to talk to teachers, relatives, friends and career advisors who are experienced in the corresponding industries before making this life-changing decision.