Three Hong Kong universities have dropped down a global league table ranking the employability of graduates, leaving the city without a representative in this year’s top 20.
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) fell from 10th to 26th in the 2020 study published in the Britain-based Times Higher Education magazine, and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) slid from 35th to 48th.
Polytechnic University fell four places to 129th, while Chinese University was the only local institution to record a rise, shifting up one place to 86th.
The rankings, compiled by French human resources consultancy Emerging, cover 250 institutions rated by more than 9,000 recruiters from 22 countries. They were assessed on their ability to produce the best graduates for employers.
Researchers told the Post that although Hong Kong universities always performed well in the study, there was an overall decline for 2020, which they said could relate to the local political atmosphere over the past year, as well as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Several campuses of Hong Kong universities emerged last November as battlefields during some of the worst violence of last year’s anti-government protests.
PolyU and Chinese universities were the worst hit, with a campus of the former occupied by hardcore demonstrators and their supporters during a 13-day police siege.
Asked if the sweeping national security law that Beijing imposed on Hong Kong from June 30 also had an impact on this year’s rankings, researchers said: “From this general movement of very different institutions, [we] can’t rule out the impact of recent events in Hong Kong.”
They added: “But with Covid-19 hitting globally and an increasing need for employers to project on future jobs, it’s difficult to dissect different causes for changes in voting habits.”
Amid the economic double whammy of last year’s protests and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Hong Kong’s youth unemployment rate rose above 20 per cent between July and September, up from around 10 per cent during the same period last year.
Ranked Asia’s No 1 this year, the University of Tokyo climbed from 7th to 6th. The National University of Singapore also rose five positions to 9th. Peking University came out on top in mainland China, up one place to 17th.
The data collection period for the annual survey took place between May and July this year.
Edmond So Wai-chung, general manager of a Hong Kong staff recruitment agency, said individual employers’ responses were subjective, reflecting personal views, beliefs and preferences in taking on fresh graduates.
“I believe various employers might have divided views, some of them might view certain things more negatively, but some might see things differently,” he said.
Earlier this month, HKU, HKUST and Chinese University lost ground in a global ranking on international reputation, with all of them dropping out of the top 50.
HKUST and PolyU said in emailed statements on Thursday that they would refer to the employability rankings to identify areas for improvement.
A HKUST spokeswoman added its latest undergraduate employment survey in June showed about 80 per cent of its graduates were already employed, of whom more than 60 per cent had received two or more employment offers.
Asked about its slide in the rankings, HKU would only say that it would continue to provide quality education to its students. Chinese University, meanwhile, said it always “strives to nurture outstanding graduates who are committed to society”.
The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.