Hong Kong finance students stress about grades as universities close

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Hong Kong finance students stress about grades as universities close

It’s not just experienced finance professionals in Hong Kong whose daily lives have been turned upside down by the coronavirus – spare a thought for finance students in the territory who want to keep their academic progress on track as they aim to ultimately secure sought-after graduate jobs.

Since February, universities across Hong Kong have closed lectured theatres and moved to online teaching for the spring term, ending in May. The University of Hong Kong (HKU), in common with other colleges in the territory, has also stopped “in-hall exams” for its next assessment period (18 May to 6 June). “We’re asking teachers to rethink the tasks that will constitute the ‘final exam’ to ensure they’re suitable for online assessment,” says an HKU statement.

This is a bitter (albeit necessary) pill to swallow for finance majors – typically among the more career and money-minded students in Hong Kong – whose studies were also severely disrupted by pro-democracy protests last year, some of which erupted in violence on campus.

Remington Cou (not his real name), a BBA student at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), says his college is using the popular video conferencing platform Zoom to deliver its courses, which restarted for the spring term on 19 February following a two-week delay due to Covid-19. “This has definitely had a severe impact on my overall learning experience. I’m just not a big fan of learning through screens, and this contributes to me skipping some lessons here and there,” says Cou, who rarely missed classes when they were taught in person.

Other students we spoke with in Hong Kong said they are concerned that their grades – and therefore their ability to secure internships and jobs at top banks – may be affected if online teaching carries on into the next semester. HKU finance major Jaliyah Stokes (a pseudonym) says his lecturers are “trying their best” to make online lessons easy to follow. But he adds that classes requiring field work have been suspended for the semester, which will potentially heap more stress on him for the rest of his degree as more lessons are squeezed into the same amount of time.

The coronavirus has effectively put an end to the non-academic lives of Hong Kong business and finance students (at HKUST, for example, all indoor sports facilities remain closed until further notice). This is more important than it may seem to their future careers – banks like to hire students who boast an impressive array of extracurricular activities. “All the extracurriculars that I was planning to join this semester – a marathon, hikes, cultural exchanges, trips – have already been cancelled,” says Stokes.

Jax Heung (not his real name), who’s graduating next year from CUHK with a degree in finance and banking, says he’s frustrated that networking sessions and seminars run by banks or university finance clubs have been cancelled. These events can provide valuable opportunities for students to mingle with finance professionals in Hong Kong.

Socialising of any sort – career-focused or otherwise – has been severely curtailed, partly because student hostels remain almost empty. The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), for example, is advising students to “stay home and not return to the hostels”, according to its website. “The outbreak of the virus is affecting my personal life since it’s now much more difficult even to meet friends,” says Heung. HKUST student Cou says his life has “just been mundane and boring these last couple of months”.

Photo by Tyler Callahan on Unsplash

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