UK’s ‘partnership’ with Hong Kong will be stronger than ever if Brexit goes ahead  

BY SILVI WRITER

Links between Hong Kong and the UK will be more important than ever after the UK leaves the European Union, said Professor Anthony Forster, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex, which is known for its international nature, at the city’s China Club on Wednesday.

Professor Forster urged the UK government to “send the right messages” to potential international students. This includes backing calls by UK universities – including Essex – for new work visas to allow universities to sponsor graduates to work in the UK for up to two years after their studies.

“Whatever the outcome of Brexit negotiations, the UK will by necessity have to be even more outward looking and globally orientated and Hong Kong will be an even more important partner for the UK as a result,” he said.

Professor Forster highlighted new technologies and applications such as AI offer huge potential for business and educational partnerships between the UK, Hong Kong and the entire China.

Portrait Anthony Forster

He also pointed out that Hong Kong was an incredibly attractive option for UK students looking at study abroad plus international work placements and internships.

The UK is ranked 13th in Hong Kong in terms of overall trade worth HK$99 billion. Hong Kong has attracted around one third of total UK investment across Asia.

The historical and cultural links between the UK and Hong Kong will make it a key partner, Professor Forster noted.

Finance, trade and education are key sectors and the Hong Kong SAR Government and InvestHK have already identified six priority areas for future partnership.

Looking at the Greater Bay area, including Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong Province, GDP is US$1.5 trillion – and will exceed US$4.6 trillion by 2030.

“This makes Hong Kong and China very attractive global partners,” he added.

Professor Forster said that the University of Essex was determined to maintain its international outlook no matter what the final details of the Brexit deal, but he urged the UK government to “send the right messages” to potential international students.

This includes backing calls by UK universities – including Essex – for new work visas to allow universities to sponsor graduates to work in the UK for up to two years after their studies.

The graduate entrepreneur visa allows graduates to stay in Britain for a year after they leave university, with the possibility of another year extension if they have been endorsed as having a credible business idea, as the South China Morning Post has reported.

“The international nature of Essex is core to our identity,” Professor Forster said.

Wednesday’s event was chaired by Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons the Rt Hon John Bercow and the panel also included Vice-President at Kaplan international Pathways, China and Hong Kong, Wen Li.

Due to the significance of Hong Kong to Essex, Mr Bercow was very keen to make it the destination for his first official international visit as Chancellor on behalf of the University.

He said: “I am delighted to have had this opportunity to meet fellow Essex alumni and listen to their thoughts and ideas on the future of Hong Kong/UK relationships. I look forward to returning in the near future to follow up on the many opportunities we have discussed”.

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The University of Essex is ranked in the top 300 in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2019 and was ranked 29th in the UK in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide.

Essex has longstanding links with Hong Kong including relationships with several Hong Kong based universities. Around 1,000 students from Hong Kong and mainland China are studying at the University of Essex’s UK campuses.

The first Hong Kong students graduated from the University of Essex in 1973 and Essex now has more than 1,200 alumni from Hong Kong.

The latest application figures indicate a sharp upturn in Hong Kong students choosing Essex.

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