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Studying for a Construction Qualification in Hong Kong

Studying for a Construction Qualification in Hong Kong
After 10 years’ working as a Quantity Surveyor, I fancied a career break to study a MSc in Construction and Project Management – fun (for me at least!) and probably a useful thing to have on my CV in a years’ time when I re-enter the employment market.  Here’s my thinking behind what I did and how I ended up doing it in Hong Kong, and why I am very happy with my decision to date.  I hope the following is of interest to anyone considering further education in the construction industry and/or the idea of relocating to Hong Kong.

Ever since graduating over a decade ago, it had always been my intention to return to higher education to study for a Masters degree.  Having worked as a Quantity Surveyor in the UK construction industry for 6 years and in the Middle East for 4 (placed there by Maxim Recruitment of course!) it now felt like a good time to get things underway.  It also hadn’t escaped my notice that more and more of my peers were adding MSc and MBAs qualifications to their profiles and that it would not do me any harm to do likewise.   Rather than take 2-3 years to complete a Masters degree part-time, I hoped that my savings, coupled with my partner’s salary, would enable me to study full-time for one year.

Why Hong Kong? 
Once I had decided to return to full-time education, my initial thought was to return to the UK to study. This was quickly dismissed by my partner as a last resort; she rightly pointed out that we had become accustomed to the expat lifestyle and all its benefits.  As she would be supporting me financially during my study year, and had secured a job in the education sector in Hong Kong quite easily, the context had already been set.
After extensive research it became quite clear that the UK need not be our only choice; even if I wanted to study my Masters in Construction and Project Management in English.  It is quite surprising to see the large number of universities throughout the world which offer courses taught in English.
For several reasons, I also wanted to study a Masters which was accredited by the RICS.  The RICS website provides an easy way to check all regions of the world for accredited courses. http://www.ricscourses.org/Pages/Home.aspx
One of the main factors in deciding where to study was the academic standard of the University. In 2012 The University of Hong Kong came 23rd in the World in the QS World University Rankings; just below Berkeley and Edinburgh.  Hong Kong University of Science & Technology and City University of Hong Kong came 33rd and 95th respectively.  Once we had taken everything into consideration: University fees, cost of living, my partner’s expected salary, existing friends in the area, job prospects and availability of home comforts; Hong Kong came out as a clear leader.  In the end our shortlist had also included, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Dubai.

Studying in Hong Kong
Around 95% of Hong Kong’s population are of Chinese descent, and this is also reflected in the student demographic.  Prepare to be in the minority if you are from the UK.  My class is made up of around 49% Mainland Chinese and 49% Hong Kong locals.  I am the other 2%.  This has not caused me any issues so far though; on the contrary.  Each module will generally include a group presentation and if you are a native English speaker, you very quickly become popular.  Although the University is relatively young by UK standards, I have been pleasantly surprised by the resources on offer.  The buildings are clean and secure, the library is very well stocked and maintained and there is an excellent IT system throughout the University campus.  Although usually your classmates’ second or third language, English is used in all lectures and its use is enforced by the staff.   All non-native English speakers are required to pass an English competence test prior to starting on the course.
Returning to University after such a long hiatus could have been daunting, but it is surprising how quickly it all comes back to you.  The main issue is motivation.  Without a manager or client to satisfy, it is up to you to finish a piece of coursework on time, or get yourself out of bed in the morning.

Living in Hong Kong
In my opinion, Hong Kong is a much better place to live than to visit. We had a one week holiday here 2 years ago and did not think we would return.  Having been here for several months we are much more aware of what it has to offer, but still feel we have only lightly scratched the surface. Every week we are still finding new bars, restaurants and shops in places we thought we already knew.  What we learned very quickly is that in Hong Kong, you have to look up to make the most of it.  As space is at a premium you will often find that a shop you are looking for is on the 12th floor of a skyscraper, or a bar is down an unnamed street, and a restaurant is behind a blank door without a name on it.  People in Hong Kong are masters of utilising the space they have.  Accommodation is notoriously expensive and the main reason that Hong Kong regularly finds itself included in Most Expensive Cities to Live lists.  Although this is true to an extent, if you are willing to commute or your partner is earning an expat wage, it is manageable.  Just don’t expect it to have a large floor area.  Every rental flat advertisement in Hong Kong has the floor area indicated on it for a reason.  Getting around is inexpensive and quick as Hong Kong has one of the best public transport systems in the world.  Even when a taxi is required, they are relatively cheap.  Although we couldn’t think of living without a car in the Middle East, I can’t imagine living with one in Hong Kong.  It’s simply not needed.

In Summary
As you can probably tell, I am a big fan of studying and living in Hong Kong and would recommend it to anyone who has considered all the options and have concluded that it is the right thing for them to do!

Best wishes,
Robin Malinowski

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