Law studies on the balance

Overseas-education | Crystal Wu 17 Aug 2021

Our student globetrotter of the week, Kay Wong, is getting the best of both worlds by studying a dual degree law program at both the University of Hong Kong and the University College London.

"I joined a summer program at the University of Toronto when I was in secondary four," said Wong, recalling her spark in studying law. "From that, I thought that by studying law I could make a difference to people's lives. When people are wrongfully convicted, I can do something to help."

For Kay, studying in Hong Kong and the UK has its similarities and differences. Prospective students in both the UK and Hong Kong are put through a centralized university application system.

Hong Kong's JUPAS system allows local students to select a maximum of 20 choices and focuses heavily on public examination results. On the other hand, both local and international students apply through the UCAS system, which allows students to apply for a maximum of five programs of their choice.

"For most other universities, the personal statement plays a very important role in your selection criteria, and for Oxbridge, they also have interviews and written assessments," added Wong.

After successfully enrolling in universities, students join orientation camps to familiarize themselves with their new environment, as well as make friends. Orientation camps are held by different organizations at the universities and have different target students.

For example, law students in HKU can join camps organized by the Law Association, or the different dormitories and halls. Orientation camps specifically for Hong Kong students can also be found in the UK and are usually organized by Hong Kong student groups. In UCL, it is held by the Chinese Society.

"For Hong Kong ones, they're quite bonding-oriented," said Wong. "And from my experience joining the UK orientation camp, it was very drinking-heavy and not as bonding-oriented."

Some universities in the UK, like UCL, have three academic terms. Universities in Hong Kong, however, generally consist of two semesters and an optional summer semester. "One difference is that Hong Kong courses are usually a semester long and UK courses are usually full-year. And for law, coursework and group work are more common in courses in Hong Kong, whereas in UCL, it's usually a 100 percent exam."

Since courses at UCL last for a full year, students take examinations once at the end of the year. In Hong Kong, however, there is usually one for each semester.

"For law, the exam format is quite similar, but in Hong Kong, there is more emphasis on application of the laws to hypothetical cases. In the UK, there's more essay writing, so the focus would be on taking a critical look at case law and existing legal rules."

Wong also detected differences in teaching styles. Hong Kong provides more guidance and has a more hands-on approach, she said. "For the UK, it's freer and they expect you to be more adult, so there's less introductory material. Instead, they expect you to be able to find your way through the course material by yourself through the help of your friends or through actively asking your mentors or tutors."

While studying in both cities has its pros and cons, Wong reminds students that to start their traineeship and practice law in Hong Kong, overseas students will have to take preparation exams before they are able to study for the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws.

Students who study law in Hong Kong will have an extra year of studies in their programs, but they are not required to take the preparation exams.

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September 2021

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