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Tuesday 21-Jul-2015
Building the right foundation

Hong Kong students who hold the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination and want to study in the UK need not despair as the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service tariff recommendations do exist for up to 23 HKDSE subjects.

For those who do not gain the top- level scores to qualify to study undergraduate degree programs, there is now a compelling range of foundation courses to bridge the gap between HKDSE and bachelor's degree disciplines.

HKDSE and the road to UK universities

What is clear is that the HKDSE qualification is recognized by tertiary institutions around the world.

In the UK, there are now a great number of universities that have specific entry requirements for the HKDSE. Unsurprisingly, the demands are high for Hong Kong students.

For instance, to secure a place at the University of Warwick, one must gain Level 5,5,5 in three HKDSE elective subjects. At the University of Bath, offers typically range from level 5*, 5, 5 to level 5,5,4. Three HKDSE elective subjects in addition to 4-5* in core mathematics.

There is also, of course, the matter of clearing the International English Language Testing System proficiency hurdle.

Many Hong Kong students fall short of level 4-5**. If they reach Level 3 and have aspirations of studying for a bachelor's degree in the UK then they need not despair because international foundation programs - intensive pre- university courses designed to provide students with a thorough grounding of the ir desired degree subject - act as a stepping stone for enrollment into undergraduate programs.

International foundation programs

Universities around the UK now offer the international foundation program. The main aim of the course is for students to follow an academic stream or pathway. The number of pathways varies from university to university.

The University of Edinburgh provides two distinct routes - the IFP in humanities and social science, as well as the Global Select Pathway Program in science and engineering.

Warwick offers five streams, including business studies and law, while the University of Bristol has six IFP streams, with arts and humanities and economics and finance among the provision.

Typically, a full-time IFP course is modular and is taught over three terms, with starts in September and January. Many universities, such as the University of Nottingham, run courses from September only.

Students on an IFP may do around 20-24 hours per week of supervised study. This will include lectures, tutorials, problem-solving exercise sessions and academic skills classes.

Whereas pre-sessional students often come to the UK in the summer to take short English-for-academic- purposes courses prior to starting their degree program, foundation students receive a whole year of study skills support.

This includes the development of academic writing skills, how to learn independently, presentation skills, note- taking in lectures and listening and reading strategies.

Students also deal with the type of academic texts they may expect to come across in their degree programs - this is beneficial and something, perhaps, pre-sessional students miss out on.

Hong Kong students who fail to gain a place at a UK university after the HKDSE should keep matters in perspective and to not look at the IFP as if it is a waste of a year. They will, at least, be thoroughly prepared for their degree programs.

In terms of assessment, modules are usually assessed through a combination of assignments, coursework and examinations. Study skills modules are assessed through a presentation, assessed seminar presentation and coursework components.

Other features of IFPs

Advantages to taking the IFP are not limited to boosting subject knowledge and improving study skills.

Students can also hone their English language skills and get to experience life in the UK before the pressure of a degree course.

Foundation students are treated in the same esteem as degree students with full access to social and academic resources - including on-campus facilities such as the student's union, library and sports facilities. They are also often guaranteed accommodation in dormitories at many universities.


Samuel Chan

For more informational about British Boarding School. Email or call 3184 0152.

Source: The Standard 

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Education Experts

With an entrepreneurial spirit spreading across online, print and broadcast media, Samuel is an award-winning educational consultant and celebrated columnist.

As a leader in the field of education, he was honoured with the British Council’s Study UK Alumni Award and his most prestigious achievement to date includes the founding of Hong Kong’s premier educational brands - Britannia StudyLink, Anglo Belgravia and Ascent Prep.

In addition to streamlining the UK independent school application process for Hong Kong families and spearheading the first official UKiset-accredited educational centre in Hong Kong, Samuel has led his company, Britannia, to becoming one of Asia’s leading brands with diverse clients and distinguished institutions ranging from Radley College to HSBC Bank and Hong Kong Telecom.


Mabel Chan is the Principal Consultant of Britannia. Having studied in both the UK and the US, she is an expert in school matching for overseas education. She writes education columns for Sing Tao Daily and The Standard, and answers questions arising from parents and students patiently.


MB Cheung, our senior consultant, has been writing education columns for major local newspapers for more than 25 years. With his experience and unique insights, he shares a variety of tips and advice on overseas education for the readers (and DSE students)

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