Project Title: Factors Involved in Master’s Degree Pursuit in Hong Kong

  • Funding Scheme: Early Career Scheme
  • Project Number: 27601518 
  • Principal Investigator: Dr Jisun Jung
  • Abstract:

Increasing numbers of students are pursuing a growing and diverse range of master’s degree programmes. The proposed study will focus on self-financed taught master’s programmes in Hong Kong. More specifically, it will identify the demographic and academic profiles of students studying for different types of master’s degrees and explore why they are pursuing master’s-level education. The analysis will focus on four main research questions: 1) What are the characteristics and profiles of students enrolled in master’s programmes in Hong Kong? 2) What are the economic, social and educational factors underpinning the decision to pursue a master’s degree? 3) How do those factors differ by student profile, such as country of origin or study mode (full-time or part-time)? 4) How do they differ by degree type, namely, research or profession oriented?

The study framework will draw on multiple theoretical approaches, including human, cultural and social capital theories, credential theory, and educational inflation and college choice models. It will follow a mixed-methods, multiple case-study design, with an exemplary case study applied to describe the distinct features of select programmes. Based on purposive maximum variation sampling, 12 master’s programmes offered by three universities in Hong Kong will be selected, ranging from research oriented (e.g. Master of Arts and Master of Science) to profession-oriented (e.g. Master of Business Administration, Master of Social Work and Master of Architecture). The project will be conducted over a 24-month period, and will rely upon existing data and secondary documents drawn from the government, university and departmental levels, coupled with the analysis of qualitative data gathered from semi-structured interviews and quantitative data gleaned from a survey. Approximately 120 current master’s students will be identified for interviews using snowball sampling, and 700 to 800 questionnaires will be collected from current master’s students across programmes and institutions. The qualitative data will be subjected to thematic content and narrative analysis, and cross-programme analysis will be performed. The quantitative data will be analysed using hierarchical logistic regression, with disciplinary differences considered.

The findings will expand our understanding of the heterogeneity of current master’s students’ backgrounds and expectations for learning and career development. In the long term, they have implications for theory development concerning students’ decision making regarding postgraduate degree programmes and for public policy, e.g. the quality assurance of postgraduate programmes. For institutional leaders and programme managers, the findings have implications for student recruitment strategies and programme design.