Undergraduates' expectations of economic and other benefits of higher education : a case study of Hong Kong
Hong Kong started a major expansion of its higher education system in 1989. By 1996, in less than a decade, the student enrolment rate had reached 18% of the relevant age group. Was there a justification for further expansion? This thesis investigates the issue of the demand for higher education from the perspective of the students during the 1 990s, a period of drastic political change and difficult economic conditions. It was an interesting time to explore students' perceptions of economic and other benefits of university education. The assumption was that if students possess positive views of returns from higher education, even in critical periods, their motive for investing in higher education is at least partly instrumental. The findings of the study reveal that students were realistic and informed about the future graduate labour market. They were aware of the financial hardships incurred from the increase in their own share of the cost of higher education, the intensifying competition in the future graduate labour market resulting from education expansion, the possible impact the political changes and the economic downturn after 1997 might have on their future career conditions. Many foresaw and were ready to accept diminishing immediate economic returns upon graduation. Yet most of them still maintained a positive view of long term earnings and career development. Most of them understood that their investment in higher education was a prerequisite for a better future both in economic terms and in terms of life long personal development. All in all, the findings of this study provide evidence to support the instrumentalists' idea, not to exclude the academicians' though, an individual perceives participating in higher education as making investment for his/her future pecuniary returns and/or other benefits.