Cultural Dynamics and Assessment Trends in Hong Kong’s Higher Education: Interviews with Educational Experts

Sun Jiaan, Wang Xueke, Wu Tong

The connection between educational policy and day-to-day pedagogic practice forms a complex choreography in curriculum re-design at macro and micro levels. In this blog, we invite leading educational experts, including Prof. Catherine Chan, Dr. Chi Cheung Ruby Yang, Prof. Juuso Nieminen, and Prof. Liz Jackson (alphabetical order) from HKU to share their valuable insights and experiences in the Hong Kong Higher Education sector. During the interview, our discussion mainly focused on two key points:

Bridging Mainland-Hong Kong Cultures: Academic Diversity in the Classroom

Recent students’ demographic change in Hong Kong universities reflect a substantial cultural transformation, driven by a new government policy (2023) intended to imply a policy to increase the proportion of mainland students from 20% to 40% in undergraduate programs, leading to increasing numbers of mainland students in many courses (Xie, et al., 2019). This policy has profound implications for all university stakeholders. Local Hong Kong students struggle with Mandarin speaking and cultural barriers when communicating with mainland students. Mainland students struggle with academic and social changes. Professors should be culturally sensitive and adaptable to create an inclusive learning environment by incorporating varied student backgrounds.

“I think the classrooms will become closer to half from mainland China…their perspective on global issues is not necessarily as diverse…with certain views…more popular in mainland. And historically…more global influences in Hong Kong. So, the way you talk about certain issues can be a little different…”

This situation may be challenging for overseas professors who may experience cultural and linguistic barriers in interacting with students. Although the university has made significant efforts in supporting students’ mental health and disabilities, there is a relative lack of introduction to the social, value, and cultural differences between mainland China and Hong Kong. These are needed to create a more inclusive and supportive learning environment (Hue, et al., 2022).

Innovation and Autonomy: Evolving Assessment and Teaching Practices

HKU has evolved its assessment policies with a strong emphasis on diversified approaches in avoiding reliance solely on written assignments. Professors are now paying more attention to nurturing students’ fundamental and soft skills in an AI age. Moreover, HKU has embraced faculty autonomy and innovative teaching strategies, aiming to foster a more dynamic and conducive academic environment. This shift reflects a commitment to enhancing educational quality and adapting to the changing needs of students and society.

“In HKU, we have the requirement of not having the group component to be higher than 50%. I think it’s a good way to assess to show individual performance in a fairer manner. I also appreciate the idea of encouraging colleagues to design more variety of assessment methods because of the advancement of AI…for example, I was using online quiz after my lecture this semester.”

“As a teacher, I love the freedom and autonomy we have in shaping our teaching methods. It is a wonderful environment that values teacher autonomy and encourages us to find our style, which is something I truly appreciate.”

“I have witnessed the development of curriculum studies, particularly in the area of academic autonomy…the importance of integrating assessment into the curriculum cannot be overlooked, with an emphasis on autonomy, relevance, scholarship, and research…collaboration with external examiners and other universities is undertaken to achieve a holistic educational experience.”

Meanwhile, the transition from a traditional master’s thesis to a “Capstone” project aims to adapt Master of Education program teaching and learning (2023). The shift lies in their focus and practical applications. While a thesis is centered on theoretical research, capstone projects give students more opportunity to focus not only on the academic research, but also apply classroom learning to solve real-world problems, prepare students for professional roles, and offer networking opportunities with industry professionals.

“This change (Capstone) reflects a realistic understanding of what can be achieved in a one-year time frame…since conducting research requires extensive reading and the ability to articulate personal perspectives, which adds to the complexity of the learning experience for students.”

“The core problem lies in teaching the process of formulating and developing individual ideas in thesis writing, which requires sustained interest over a long period…Guidance for this kind of independent thinking in a one year master program can be challenging, and many students have a hard time deciding what to do without clear instructions.”

In conclusion, the policy to increase mainland student quotas introduces cultural and pedagogical challenges, highlighting the necessity for improved cultural sensitivity and teaching adaptability. Simultaneously, evolving assessment strategies towards more diversified approaches prompt a re-evaluation of policymaking to better prepare students for an AI-driven future. Therefore, a flexible and responsive educational framework is crucial (Andrade, 2023), to meet the diverse needs of students, educators, and society.


Andrade, M. S. (2023). Pedagogies and Practices: An Institutional Framework for

Flexible Learning. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice, 23(5), 106–114.

Cirkony, C., & Kenny, J. D. (2022). Using formative assessment to build coherence between educational policy and classroom practice: A case study using inquiry in science. The Australian Journal of Teacher Education47(10), 77–105.

Government of Hong Kong. (2023, October 25). [Increase in Non-local Student Quotas to Build a Higher Education Hub]. Retrieved from

Hue, M.-T., & Karim, S. (2022). Supporting Diverse Students in Asian Inclusive Classrooms: From Policies and Theories to Practice (1st ed., Vol. 1). Routledge.

University of Hong Kong. (2023). Regulations for the degree of Master of Education (MEd).

Xie, H., Zou, D., Wong, T.-L., & Wang, F. L. (2019). A Review on the Admission Policies of Hong Kong Universities for Non-local Students from Mainland China. In Technology in Education: Pedagogical Innovations (pp. 224–234). Springer Singapore.

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