If you are a student in Hong Kong about to find out your HKDSE results, have you thought about studying in the UK if you don’t quite get the results you need? If you get good DSE results but don’t get exactly what you need to go to university in Hong Kong, A levels in the UK may be an option for you.



  1. The UK A level system means that you only have to take 3 or 4 subjects. So you can study only subjects that you like, that you are good at and that are going to help you towards the career you want to take.
  2. Some Colleges will allow you to do you A levels in 1 year instead of the usual 2 years. Although this is a big challenge and it is difficult, it is not impossible and it can be done.  Even if you take two years, it could be worth it.
  3. One year A level means that you will finish A levels at the same age (18 years old) as students in the UK and progress to university at the same time as them.
  4. Getting good A level results could mean that you get into a high ranking university in the UK or elsewhere in the world that is better than the university you might have gone to in Hong Kong with your DSE results.
  5. If you still want to go to university in Hong Kong, you could apply the following year with you’re a levels as a non-JUPAS student.
  6. It will give you the opportunity to come and live in London or elsewhere in the UK.

Education agents in Hong Kong and the British Council can help you make a good choice.



Clearing can be a valuable tool.  I have known many students take up places at very good universities to study courses that were perfect for them through the clearing system.  In some cases the degrees they ended up reading and the universities they ended up studying at were better matches for them than those they missed their offers for.


The UCAS website is the best place to look for for clearing information and advice:



But I have a few pieces of additional advice based on my own experience to share:


1.  Be in the country on results day – if you can’t be in the country, be available on the telephone and remember to operate on UK time

2.  Collect your results as early as you possibly can

3.  Make sure your phone is charged and you have access to a computer or device that can access the internet

4.  Explore your options, then call the universities you want to apply to and BE CALM.  Have to hand your UCAS ID and clearing passport number

5.  Ask for the name of every person you speak to, especially those who offer you a place, and try to get their direct line and email address

6.  Try to confirm everything in writing by email if you can.  This may mean that you have to make the first move and write an email to the person you spoke to confirming the details of your conversation

7.  If you live near the university you want to go to.  Be prepared to go there if necessary

8.  If you will need a visa to go to university, have your passport with you on results day

9.  Be realistic – you’re unlikely to get into Oxford to study medicine

10.  Be efficient and organised because you will have to move swiftly, but don’t panic.  You will still have some time to explore options and you should take some time to ensure you are making the right choice.

11.  Be prepared to have to answer some “interview” type questions over the phone by re-reading your personal statement

12.   Be prepared to have to write another personal statement especially if the courses you apply for through clearing are different to those you applied for originally


Good luck!

About John Wilson

John Wilson is the Principal of Acorn House College in Southall, London. He was appointed to this role in January 2015 to lead the College as it begins a new chapter in its successful  fifteen-year journey.

His previous role was as Director of Studies/Vice principal at Ashbourne College on High Street Kensington in Central London, where he led the academic staff and oversaw unprecedented improvement and academic success at A level and GCSE.

John was educated at state schools and colleges in the North East of England before graduating in 2000 from Oxford University with honours in biological sciences.  He has spent a significant proportion of his career as an advisor to students in the UK and throughout the world on making the best possible university choice and the strongest possible application.  Having attained a PGCE in secondary science from Cambridge University he is also a qualified and experienced teacher of biology and science specialising in sixth form/tertiary education at A level.

John is a lay member of the university admissions panel for medical school undergraduate entry at UCL (University College London) and has also performed this role at Imperial College and Queen Mary University in London.

He has been invited to speak on a number of occasions in Hong Kong by the British Council to share his knowledge and experience of the British education system and on making applications to British universities.  In particular he has made presentations on how to choose a university and how to make the best possible application to British universities.

From 2007 to 2010 he planned and prepared Ashbourne College for its inspection by Ofsted and led the College to a judgment of “outstanding” with specific reference made in the report to his “dynamic” leadership.

John is passionate about education and about the opportunities it can create for young people.  He believes fundamentally that academic success can open doors and empower young people and that this success depends not only outstanding teaching but on the delivery of a rounded, holistic education with the learner at its core.

John has completed four marathons in competitive times, is a below-average musician and is happily married with one young daughter.

johnwilsoneducation.com is John’s personal website and the views expressed are his own.