Speaking ahead of China’s annual Two Sessions political conferences earlier this month, Li discussed the development of higher education in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, calling it the fastest growing region for HE globally bar non.

“This is very significant for the promoting of exchanges between both sides but it is only going in one direction. Hong Kong’s young students haven’t profited much from it,” he said of the area’s development.

“[The development of the GBA] is very significant for the promoting of exchanges between both sides but it is only going in one direction”

He highlighted examples of branch campuses that Hong Kong universities are setting up in Guangdong – the province currently has around a dozen of both new local universities and branch campuses under construction, including the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s campus, which is due to open in Guangzhou in 2022.

The region has also become a hotspot for international schools; of those expected to open in China over the next two years, almost half will be in Guangdong.

Li further argued however that Hong Kong should not only export education but import it.

“Shenzhen University is the closest university in Mainland China to Hong Kong and has some unique advantages,” he added.

“At present there are 200 Hong Kong residency card holders studying at Shenzhen University, and more than 10,000 Shenzhen University alumni work in Hong Kong. Shenzhen University also cooperates with many Hong Kong universities.”

The announcement comes after changes to election rules in Hong Kong have sought to establish ever-greater control over the city by Mainland authorities, and there is an understanding that educational integration may be a key mechanism for controlling discontent towards Beijing.

Students have played an active role in protests against rule by Mainland China and the deterioration of the One Country, Two Systems policy that previously assured Hong Kong some degree of autonomy.

A survey last year suggested Hong Kong youth additionally had little interest in the Greater Bay Area’s touted educational opportunities, with one reason being concerns about the recognition of Chinese university qualifications.

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