How Postgraduate Studies in Hong Kong Changed A Mainland Chinese Student’s Life for Good

Emilie LAU

At the age of 23 in 2013, Lucas Liu graduated with a degree in clinical medicine from Southern Medical University in China. He felt the need for more training and life experience before embarking on the path of a doctor. He always wanted to study abroad but didn’t want to be too far away from his family. Hong Kong was the best option for him.





 “My top concern, when pursuing education outside of China was that the degree must be recognized by the Ministry of Education in China because the reputation and recognition of one’s school and programme are keys to enhancing one’s credentials in the Mainland. I  had to ensure that my post-graduate education  would be useful in helping me launch a career and set me apart from my competitors.”


“Language is another factor in my consideration. I want to study in a place where I can get more exposure to English and many chances to practice it because this language is very important in our medical career nowadays. I also wanted to be in a city with a physically attractive environment and vibrant social life. Hong Kong is just the perfect place because English is used extensively here and the lifestyle is exciting. Moreover, it is an international city near my hometown, Guang Zhou. I do not have to live in a faraway land and struggle to overcome cultural shocks and homesickness.”


With these factors in mind, Lucas first consulted Dingxiangyuan, the largest online academic portal for Chinese physicians and life science professionals. On his trusted website, he learned of the excellent reputation and research achievements of The Chinese University of Hong Kong which led him to explore their various graduate programmes. Finally, he decided on Master of Science in Gastroenterology offered by the Institute of Digestive Disease. It is Asia’s first and only post-graduate gastroenterology programme. Especially appealing to Lucas were its multi-disciplinary teaching approaches that promise leadership development, research engagement, networking opportunities, critical thinking and analytical skills training.


But then all advertisements are attractive.



Did the programme really deliver the results it promotes?


For Lucas, in the most practical sense, the Master of Science in Gastroenterology programme did deliver results that it promises: to equip its graduates with leadership skills and help advance their careers. Several months after graduation, he found a full-time job at the respectable Nanfang Hospital in Guang Zhou.


“This degree enhanced my credentials so I felt prepared and confident to start my medical career. This is a committed result of the programme. I was also lucky because in 2013, the year when I was enrolled, the Institute of Digestive Disease established a State Key Laboratory of Digestive Disease. The SKL has a prestigious status in China because it is approved and funded by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Being an alumnus of an institute with a State Key Laboratory enhances the overall distinction of my degree.  But still, what is more important than getting me a job is that I can apply the skills I learned from the courses I took


In my daily work, I am mainly responsible for managing patients in clinical trials. I draw on the communication and problem-solving skills that I learned from the Medical Ethics, Communication and Law course to help me address patient complaints confidently and tactfully. I think that in addition to the medical knowledge, the health administration and management topics of the Master of Gastroenterology Programme are probably the most useful in helping the graduates start a career and perform well in it.”



Was Lucas’ career launch a smooth sail?


In China, a staggering population of 1.3 billion meant cutthroat competition. What obstacles did he overcome in order to land a job at a hospital ina major city? The young doctor explained that although the Master of GI programme is recognized by the Chinese Ministry of Education, the certification of it was an arduous process.


“First, you must find a reliable agency that provides accreditation services. Such agencies evaluate and validate programmes outside China. Applicants requesting a degree certification must follow all the instructions carefully and prepare a long list of documents to facilitate the process. The agency gathers the documents and begins the accreditation procedures including the translation of an applicant’s diploma and transcript. For me, the entire process took more than 3 months. I was anxious during that waiting period and even missed the Ph.D. application deadlines in China. But my degree meant a lot to me so I was determined to certify it.”


His effort paid off. The Chinese Ministry of Education finally accredited his degree from Hong Kong.


Confident and hopeful, Lucas started job hunting. It was not long before he landed a position as a research doctor at the respectable Nanjing Hospital in Guang Zhou. The young physician explained that his post-graduate education did more for him than simply establishing his credentials.


“This programme changed the way I think. Its influence on me is far more transformational than the solid knowledge I absorbed from the courses I took. Professors in Hong Kong taught me a lot of advanced medical knowledge and concepts such as evidence-based medicine, patient-oriented treatment and multi-disciplinary treatment, etc. I think the most important and life changing aspect of my postgraduate education is that it empowered me to understand patients better so I can treat not only their physical illnesses but also address their emotional concerns. This new way of thinking is a lasting impact that the master’s programme has left on my life.”



Lucas summarised 3 things that he liked most about the programme:


knowledge application, international perspective and English instruction. He compared his educational experience in China and Hong Kong and concluded that the Chinese system tends to be “test-oriented” whereas the Hong Kong system encouraged more application of theories.


Through group projects, he used knowledge learned in class and collaborated with classmates with different personalities.  The practice of teamwork serves him well in his current work as a member of a medical team.


Outside the classroom, Lucas was excited to attend many international medical events such as the International Digestive Disease Forum where he could meet leading overseas experts and connect with professionals from other countries.


Last but not least, the young doctor achieved his goal of brushing up his English. In the classroom, he listened to and learned in English. Outside, he used English to connect with overseas delegates at international events and to chat with foreigners in various social settings in this vibrant city.


Lucas enjoyed a fascinating life in Hong Kong where he lived its unique culture of a perfect consummation of East and West, built lasting friendships, and gain educational, international and social experience that enriched his life. Back in China, Lucas often reminisces about his days in the city. 


“The people are polite, the streets are clean and the government officials are efficient. I received a practical education which I can apply in my daily clinical practice. I made great friends with the Hong Kong people whom I’m eager to meet again whenever they come to Guang Zhou or when I visit Hong Kong. I am proud of my decision to study in Hong Kong!”


Lucas is one of the many bachelor degree holders from Mainland China who comes to Hong Kong to pursue quality education. Since 1997 when its sovereignty was returned to China, Hong Kong has been welcoming an influx of talents from all parts of the country. These young and intelligent Chinese come to Hong Kong for things that the city uniquely offers: English education in a bilingual environment, safety in a vibrant and busy metropolis, leading institutions, exceptional social infrastructures and transportation system, exciting lifestyles balanced by relaxing natural landscape, and easy access to the world’s major cities. These factors have long attracted foreigners from investors to professionals to proletariats to work, live and settle in Hong Kong. From now to the years ahead, the city will continue to consolidate its position as Asia’s platform for academic and professional exchange.