1. What are the differences between TPg and RPg?
As the name suggests, the focus of TPg is teaching and learning; it is similar to undergraduates studies in that students are required to register, attend and complete the courses of the programme. Students will be assessed by examination, course work, project assignment or/and dissertation.
The focus of RPg is research work. Students will do their research under the guidance of a supervisor assigned by the university. It requires students to have sound research background. The award of the degree depends mainly on the assessment of their research result in the form of a thesis.
2. How can I know whether postgraduate study is right for me?
You should first ascertain the reason why you want to pursue a postgraduate programme. (see ‘Ask yourself why’ in “Self Reflection”). Postgraduate studies may or may not be the best way to achieve your goals. You may wish to talk to relevant resource persons (e.g. career advisers in CEDARS) in case of doubt.
You should also consider whether you have the capability to pursue postgraduate studies (see ‘Are you academically ready’ in “Self Reflection”). Postgraduate programmes are intellectually demanding and not all students possess the ability to cope with it. If you are in doubt, talk to your teachers /academic advisers/postgraduate students in your interested disciplines.
3. What do RPg students do during their study period, taking courses or purely doing research?
RPg programmes normally consist of both course taking and research. The focus of RPg studies is of course on research work. The award of the degree depends mainly on the assessment of the thesis. However, students are normally also required to take a limited number of courses to help students prepare for their theses, such as coursework on discipline-specific knowledge, language and research skills.
4. Is postgraduate study necessary for a successful career?
There is no concrete answer to this question. It depends on your career goal and aspiration. A higher academic qualification is only one of the many factors for gaining a a fulfilling job. A postgraduate degree may, in some cases, give you comparative edge over your competitors with only undergraduate qualification. However, your future employer/job interviewer will also consider applicants’ personality and other soft skills (common sense, analytical skills, communication skills, etc).
On the other hand, a postgraduate qualification is in general necessary for a career in academia.
Research, preparation, application and selection criteria
5. What should I consider when choosing between a MPhil and a direct PhD programme?
In HKU, a bachelor’s degree holder with first-class honours (or equivalent qualification) from a recognized university may apply for admission to PhD programme directly. If their admission is accepted, they will join the 4-year PhD programme (in contrast to the 3-year PhD programme for MPhil degree holder).
You may however wish to note that while the study formats of MPhil and PhD are essentially the same, the expectations on the quality of research outcomes are very different. A successful MPhil thesis is expected to display some originality and demonstrates a sound understanding of the field of study and the appropriate research methods; a successful PhD thesis, on the other hand, should be an original contribution to knowledge and worthy of publication. You should consider whether you have the requisite capability and experience to do research at such a high level.
6. What are the general selection criteria of RPg candidates (MPhil and PhD)?
Relevant academic background, outstanding academic results, research experience and good research proposals are the common selection criteria. To most graduate schools, a second upper-class honour is required for MPhil programmes and a first-class honour for direct admission to PhD studies. Because of the nature of RPg studies which demands rigor and hard work, successful candidates should be intellectually curious, self-driven, independent, proactive, innovative and determined.
7. How would a RPg supervisor assess a candidate’s research proposal?
Assessment criteria vary depending on the supervisor and the discipline. However, generally speaking, a MPhil candidate should be able to demonstrate good knowledge of the research topic, the aims and a clear area of investigation with considerable details. As for PhD candidates, they are expected to be junior experts with deep knowledge and extensive experience in the research area. Originality and significance of the proposed research are important.
8. How important is GPA?
Academic result is an important criterion. In general, candidates are required to have GGPA above 3, average grade B+ and above, or a second-class honour (upper division) to be accepted into any postgraduate programmes. To add to the strength of your application, you could include relevant courses, experience and skills. For TPg studies, cite relevant projects and internships to demonstrate your passion and competency. For RPg studies, include dissertation/thesis, research assistant experience, or involvement in research publication, e.g. publishing a paper, presenting in seminars/conferences.
9. Would a RPg supervisor consider my application if I am interested in his research area but my major is not from his discipline?
Normally candidates are expected to have a relevant academic background, typically from undergraduate studies. However, for certain interdisciplinary fields, the professors may accept a candidate from a different major, whose proposal demonstrates how her/his knowledge could help to create or advance knowledge in the research area.
10. Should I apply for postgraduate studies right after graduation from my undergraduate studies or should I gain some working experiences first?
Only a very limited number of postgraduate programmes require prior working experience for admission. For other programmes, it largely depends on your consideration of personal factors—for example, whether you are able to cope with the financial burden of postgraduate study (especially full-time TPg programme which in general has a relatively high tuition fee).
Some students consider it helpful to get some work experience in their fields of study before beginning a postgraduate programme, because it will give them a better idea of what they like and what they want. Others prefer to do it right after graduation from undergraduate programme, because it will be more difficult to adapt to full-time study after a few years of work life. It may be a matter of personal circumstances and/or preference.
11. What factors should I consider whether to pursue postgraduate studies in Hong Kong or overseas?
There are many factors that you may wish to consider whether to pursue postgraduate study in Hong Kong or overseas, such as:
- the reputation/academic standing of the university
- financial consideration (the higher tuition fee/cost of living in overseas countries)
- professional recognition (whether the qualification obtained from overseas university would be recognized by the local professional bodies)
- adaption problem (whether you are confident to overcome the adaption problem associated with living/learning in a new environment)
- availability of area of studies (some postgraduate programmes are only available overseas)
- personal preference (wish to experience different academic culture in different countries)
12. What steps should I take to look for a suitable university/research supervisor?
Some applicants may have connections with prospective supervisors during their undergraduate years. If you do not, first, select a research area of interest to you. Then browse the relevant resources (e.g. research staff profile, scholars’ hub or conferences’ speakers) to identify prospective graduate schools and professors/supervisors who work in or receive research grants in areas that match your interest. Bear in mind that sometimes a top professor in a research field may not necessarily come from a top university. Consult your teachers for their advice.
13. What can a student do in his undergraduate studies to better prepare for his potential RPg studies?
If RPg study is one of your possible paths, you should make use of all opportunities to find out if it is right for you by various means during your undergraduate years, e.g. volunteer as student research assistants, take part in as many aspects of a research study as possible, discuss ideas with your professors, apply for research opportunities during exchange and attend seminars/conferences. Build your academic network proactively for future connection, reference and collaboration.
14. Are there any financial assistances for postgraduate studies in Hong Kong or overseas?
For RPg, full-time students who hold a first degree with second-class honours first division (or equivalent) or above are normally considered eligible to receive a Postgraduate Scholarship during the normative study period. Local students enrolling in full-time RPg programmes will also enjoy tuition fee waiver.
For both TPg and RPg, students may explore the HKU Scholarship website for any suitable scholarship opportunity (https://www.scholarships.hku.hk/news/detail/146).
There are also a number of scholarships listed in the HKU Scholarship website to support students pursuing postgraduate studies overseas. Check out for details: https://www.scholarships.hku.hk/news/detail/120
15. In what ways could postgraduate students maximize the outcome of their studies for career development?
Some postgraduate studies will lead to professional qualification or professional knowledge for a particular career. For the other programmes, you should try hard to develop your potential in full during your postgraduate studies—skills such as researching, presentation, writing, organization and time management. These are life-long skills that not only benefit your job-seeking but also your future career development.