Computer News No. 119  Jan.-Feb. 2006

On-line Application System for Taught Postgraduate Admission

    1. Introduction
    2. Benefits
      1. Simple application procedure with secure on-line payment of application fee
      2. Efficient handling of the diversity of programme information and application forms
      3. Rich features to cater for the management needs
    3. Concluding Remarks

1. Introduction

From the advertisements in the press, readers may have noticed that the new admission exercise for postgraduate studies has begun.  The University would always like to attract the best local and overseas students.  For years, prospective students from all over the world have been accessing our postgraduate prospectus on the Web to read about our wide variety of  programmes of studies. With the launch of the on-line application system for taught postgraduate admission in 2005, students can apply for admission through the Web without sending a printed application form.  This brings convenience to the applicants and speeds up the processing of their submitted forms.  The system is accessible at http://www.hku.hk/rss/online or from the HKU homepage => "Study Programmes and Admissions".

Applying for admission on-line is just part of the picture.  Behind the scene is a sophisticated information system that provides the necessary back-end support for processing the applications and catering for the unique requirements of individual programmes of studies.

2. Benefits

2.1. Simple application procedure with secure on-line payment of application fee
A prospective student can apply for admission simply by filling in the on-line application form of the chosen programme of study and follow any application requirements of the programme.  In the on-line application system, the application fee by credit card payment is settled securely by the JETCO payment gateway service provided through the Bank of East Asia.  Using the payment gateway, JETCO or the bank never receive any applicant data from our system and similarly our system never receive any credit card information.  After an application is successfully submitted, an application number will be shown in the acknowledgement web page and an email will be sent to the applicant to double confirm the receipt of an application.  Therefore, applicants can enjoy a straightforward application procedure while getting a secure on-line payment service.  A sample partial on-line form is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. A sample on-line form (partial)


The University of Hong Kong
Master of Architecture [MArch] (Full-time)
User: scotty 
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Payment Status | TPG Admissions
Application Procedures | Enquiry 
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Personal Information Academic Qualification Professional Qualification
& Working Experience
English Language Requirements Referees Further Information Payment & Submission
Personal Information
Title:*
Name:* (Surname)    (Given names)
Chinese Name:
(if any)
C.C. Code:
(for HKID card holders only)
Sex:*  
Date of Birth:* (dd/mm/yyyy) / /  
2.2. Efficient handling of the diversity of programme information and application forms
One complexity of the system is the need to handle the yearly update of the syllabuses and information of each programme of studies from the faculties.  Sometimes, the final details of some programmes are finalized a few days before application begins.  To tackle this problem, a central repository is set up for the Faculty Offices to upload the new information.  Central administration staff will then have a single place to receive, process and disseminate up-to-date information to the public.  The flow of the update exercise is now easily managed through the system.  Any late information can easily be spotted and handled accordingly.

Furthermore, different Faculties will receive different application information according to the different programmes they offer.  For example, a programme in Community Geriatrics requires the details of in-service training taken by applicants.  The ability of the system to collect such information is crucial for minimising the administration effort to contact the applicants afterwards.  In the current admission exercise, about forty different on-line application forms are used to cover the different needs of over one hundred programmes.

2.3. Rich features to cater for the management needs
To assist the selection of applicants, application data can be downloaded by Faculty Offices.  The data is provided in a tabulated form to enable easy short-listing.  In addition, to handle enquiries from applicants, facilities are available for the different administrative offices to conveniently search for applicant information.  Finally, management information such as the statistics of applications is made available from the system.  Management decisions can be made accordingly.  A sample application statistics report is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2. A sample application statistics report (data for demonstration only)

Faculty  Curriculum Count   
Arts Master of Arts
345
(29%) (On-line)
123
(10%) (Paper)
  Master of Arts in Transport Policy and Planning
234
(20%)
89
(8%)
  Master of Geographic Information Systems
246
(21%)
135
(12%)

3. Concluding Remarks

Applications for admission to the taught postgraduate studies are now open for the coming academic year.  We expect the number of programmes of studies and on-line applications will increase.  By streamlining the application process and organizing the application information, the On-line Application System for Taught Postgraduate Admission will continue to provide a convenient channel for our applicants to submit applications while serving the complex needs of our Faculty Offices.