Hong Kong was confirmed as being in a recession in November and, as the protests that have swept the city continue, local education agencies have indicated an increase in the number of students making inquiries about studying abroad next year.

“Education is a way of getting citizenship abroad, which people see as insurance if things get worse,” one agent, who asked to remain anonymous due to working in both Hong Kong and on the mainland, told The PIE News.

And there has been a huge increase in Hong Kongers taking IELTS tests with the British Council, a test used for entry into English language higher education courses, The PIE News has learned.

“In terms of the IELTS… in the month of September 2019, there was a 50% increase in test takers of all ages compared with September 2018,” Aideen McLaughlin of the British Council in Hong Kong revealed.

Managing director of consultancy Britannia StudyLink Samuel Chan said it was an “upsetting moment for Hong Kong”, and the situation was making a considerable impact on his business, which specialises in sending students to boarding schools in the UK.

“The general consensus is that most people are now looking to study abroad if they can afford it. Many people are now shifting their assets abroad,” he said.

“Parents, if they can afford it, will send their children abroad. The demand has increased, I feel, by almost double.”

“Education is a way of getting citizenship abroad, which people see as insurance if things get worse”

“The only issue, because we do boarding school placement, schools are unlikely to be able to increase beds and quotas immediately. For our business it’s not actually fantastically amazing, [but] it’s good,” Chan added.

Hong Kong has previously seen surges in citizens studying abroad in response to changes in the education system.

In 2014, the number of Hong Kong students in the UK grew by 20%, attributed to a dislike of the new diploma system that replaced A-levels.

Mainland China has been making overtures to Hong Kong students – although it is unlikely to be a popular choice of destination – by extending the number of institutions that can accept Hong Kong qualifications to 122.

Read more : Callan Quinn : The PIE News : 18 December 2019