The Costs Of Getting Into International Schools

Your guide to understanding what you need to pay upfront to apply to an international school in Hong Kong – and what is the cost of securing a school place. Expect to pay anywhere between HKD 11,000 up to as much as HKD 500,000 to secure a primary or secondary place...
The Costs Of Getting Into International Schools
By Carli Allan
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Will I Need To Pay A Capital Levy Or Debenture During The Admissions Process?

Capital Levy

In Hong Kong, it’s not unusual for schools to ask parents to pay an annual capital levy (or sometimes a higher, one-off levy) on acceptance of a place; this levy funds the maintenance and replacement of campus facilities. Once again, this non-refundable figure varies considerably – from an annual capital levy of HKD 7,120 at Discovery College and HKD 12,000 at American International School to a one-off capital enrolment fee of HKD 100,000 at Nord Anglia International School (NAIS) and up to HKD 120,000 at Kingston International School.

Always check if the levy is an annual or one-off payment. While NAIS may charge you a one-off HKD 100,000, you could be paying a total of HKD 144,000 in 12 annual levy payments at American International School if your child stays at the school for the long-term. Some schools offer you the choice of paying a one-time levy or spreading the cost over a longer period by paying an annual capital levy. At Stamford International School Hong Kong, for example, parents can choose between paying a one-time levy of HKD 150,000 or annual payments of HKD 30,000.

While some schools will charge you this levy in the invoice for tuition fees, others require you to pay it to secure your child’s place. For example, at NAIS, a “non-refundable, non-transferable fee of HKD 100,000 is payable within 14 days to confirm your acceptance and guarantee the place.”


Debentures are offered at several schools in Hong Kong, often as a way to ‘buy’ your way to the top of the admissions list. Parents who purchase a debenture do not need to pay the school’s annual or one-off capital levy. Unlike capital levies, debentures are usually reimbursed after the child leaves the school. Some schools will refund the full amount; at other schools, debentures depreciate over a certain number of years.

It’s also important to understand that the annual capital levy charged at one school can amount to the same or more than a debenture offered by another over the course of a child’s schooling.

ESF offers families an opportunity to purchase an Individual Nomination Right (INR) for HKD 500,000. Malvern College Hong Kong also offers INRs, as does Mount Kelly Hong Kong. At Harrow, the first batch of individual debentures, valued at HKD 600,000, was fully subscribed when the school opened in 2012; no further batch of individual debentures will be issued in the near future.

Individual debentures are valid for the nomination of one child for priority admission. Costs range from HKD 100,000 at Australian International School to HKD 612,500 at ASHK and HKD 500,000 at Stamford American School, Hong Kong and Discovery Bay International School.

Some schools make it compulsory for you to purchase a redeemable debenture once your child has been offered a place. These not-for-profit schools include Kellett School (HKD 120,000), French International School (HKD 90,000) and the German Swiss International School (HKD 500,000), as well as International Christian School (ICS) (HKD 250,000) and Yew Cheung International School (YCIS) (HKD 350,000 for primary and HKD 470,000 for secondary). The Harbour School requires all families to pay a compulsory family debenture of HKD 450,000, which exempts one student from paying its annual capital levy of HKD 33,000.

A spokesperson for Kellett says: “Kellett School is a not-for-profit organisation. Debentures were introduced to help finance the building of the School, the acquisition of equipment and other capital items, and thus benefit the entire school community. A certificate is issued in return for payment of HKD 120,000 prior to the pupil joining the school.

“An individual debenture has a life span of seven years from the date of issue and will depreciate to zero over that period (at 20% of the principal sum for the first year, 15% of the principal sum for the second and third years, and at 12.5% of the principal sum in each of the remaining four years). Where a child leaves the school before the debenture has expired, a partial refund will be made as per the depreciation rates above.”

Others have resisted the move towards debentures. For example, American International School Hong Kong says that, “Remaining true to our founding mission of providing an affordable option for families seeking an American international educational program in Hong Kong, AIS, unlike most other international schools has instinctively resisted the introduction of a debenture scheme.”

Next: What are the costs of applying to an ESF school?

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