Cambridge cancels HK interviews

Top News | Stella Wong and Jennifer Lee 21 Nov 2019

Students hoping to further their studies overseas are being impeded by the unrest in Hong Kong, with at least one top British university canceling its interview sessions for local applicants.

The University of Cambridge announced it had decided to cancel interviews for undergraduate admission scheduled to take place in Hong Kong next Friday and Saturday due to the "civil unrest in Hong Kong."

"Further information will be sent to applicants once alternative interview arrangements have been made," it said.

Cambridge also called on applicants not to contact the colleges for the time being.

It is unclear what the alternative arrangement will be, but education service experts suggested the interviews in Hong Kong may be replaced with Skype interviews or held at other locations.

The interview is an essential step to get into the top university.

Cambridge usually conducts overseas interviews in Canada, China, Hong Kong, India, Malaysia, New York and Singapore via video-conferencing.

Candidates based in a location where there is an overseas interview team would ordinarily be expected to apply for an interview in that location, according to eligibility.

But overseas applicants for architecture, classics, history of art or music are advised to apply for an interview in Cambridge, the school said. A Cambridge graduate who has been through the process in Hong Kong said the interview carries a lot of weight because the university depends on it to see if students are suited for the university's unique "supervision system," which revolves around discussion-based learning.

"You could be a fantastic candidate with perfect everything but ill suited to the Cambridge way of teaching and that's why the interview is a key determining factor," she said.

In its supervision system, a student is set an essay or problem that has to handed in before the lesson.

The supervisor will have a long discussion about different strategies they could have taken, allowing students to be more open minded to different ideas and methods.

"The class itself involves the professor questioning you and prompting you to think for yourself to tease out new connections you would not have found otherwise," she said.

"The Cambridge interview is a lot like that."

In an interview in Hong Kong, professors from the University of Hong Kong are sometimes recruited to sit in with the Cambridge professor.

Martin Campion, founder of Campion College Consultancy, expects Cambridge will offer interviews by Skype or other similar methods as this is the norm with Oxford University.

"While this isn't the same, I would emphasize that both universities are determined to make offers to the very best students, and applicants won't be at a disadvantage," he said.

But Samuel Chan Sze-ming, founder of Britannia StudyLink, believes there will be an impact on students' applications if top universities are canceling their interviews in Hong Kong.

He said the impact is unknown in terms of student applications at Cambridge as it will depend on the extent of the rearrangement.

"For example, will they still be interviewed by their professors of their subject from their specific college? Will Skype arrangements be effective? How will they cater for more students coming to Cambridge for interviews?"

He quoted the UK's No 1 A-level school Oxford International College as saying that Cambridge's admissions office is putting measures in place to ensure that students from Hong Kong will not be disadvantaged.

"All those who have been shortlisted for interview will be interviewed. Some possible measures include conducting the interviews in Shanghai or in Cambridge," the college said.

It added that mitigating the effects and ensuring that all Hong Kong applicants have the opportunity to be interviewed is Cambridge's main priority.

On average, 461 people in Hong Kong applied to Cambridge every year from 2012 to 2016, according to Norton House. An average of 76 people, or 16.5 percent of them, were admitted.

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