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Starting a Private Education Business in Hong Kong

Setting up an educational institute in Hong Kong is often viewed as a lucrative business. As a result, a number of academic institutions, vocational centers, kindergartens and nurseries are set up by individuals and foreign institutions every year.

In order to streamline the education sector, the Hong Kong authorities have prescribed a set of entry requirements.

This guide provides information on how to start an educational institute in Hong Kong.

Type of License Required

If you wish to set up a kindergarten; an academic school that offers primary and secondary education; a tutorial center; a computer education center; a language school; an enrichment center that offers diplomas and certificate courses; or a distance learning center, you will have to obtain a ‘Certificate of Registration of a School’ from the Education Bureau of Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, the term “school” refers to an institution, organization or establishment that provides formal education including correspondence courses for 20 or more persons during any one day or 8 or more persons at any one time.

Hong Kong schools offering private education are classified into the following broad groups:

  • Preschools/Kindergartens
  • Academic Schools that offer theoretical, structured courses and formal education. Schools that offer certificates, diplomas, degrees come under this category. Examples of academic schools include: 
    • Schools that offer primary and secondary education
    • Business schools
    • IT schools or computer education centers
    • Language schools
    • Fine Arts schools
    • Tuition schools
    • Enrichment centers offering diplomas, certificate courses etc.
    • Adult education centers
    • Distance learning centers

A person, who wishes to setup any of the above educational institutes in Hong Kong needs to obtain a Certificate of Registration of School from the Hong Kong Education Bureau.

Note that the term “school” does not apply to non-academic institutes that offer practical, hands-on learning experiences such as cooking courses, pet grooming courses, hair styling courses, dressmaking courses etc. A Certificate of Registration of School is not required for setting up non-academic institutes.

License Pre-requisites

Prior to applying for a Certificate of Registration of School, the following legal requirements must be satisfied:

Company registration: You must first setup a Hong Kong company and obtain a Certificate of Incorporation from the Hong Kong Companies Registry. For details on how to setup a Hong Kong company, please refer to Hong Kong Company Registration guide.

Suitable school premises: The premises you choose must be suitable for running a kindergarten or academic school. Ideally, you should choose premises that are specially designed and constructed as schools. However, it may not always be possible to find such premises. If the premises are not designed and constructed as schools, you will have to obtain the following clearances:

  • Town Planning Board Clearance
  • Land Registry Clearance
  • Fire Services Department Clearance
  • Buildings Department Clearance
  • Housing Department Clearance (only if the premises are in a Housing Estate or Commercial Building)
  • Maximum number of students permitted in each class: The maximum number of students allowed in a kindergarten class is 30. For schools offering primary, secondary, post-secondary education or other educational courses, the class size must not exceed 45 students.
  • School name: The proposed name of the school should not be the same as or similar to the name of another registered school or the name of a school whose registration has been cancelled.
  • School manager: The school must nominate a person as a School Manager. The manager must be registered with the Hong Kong Education Bureau. Application for manager registration can be made along with the application for School Registration. The appointed manager must reside in Hong Kong for at least 9 months in each year and must be at least 18 years of age. If the manager is above 70 years of age he/she must submit a medical certificate that has been issued by a registered medical practitioner, certifying that he/she is physically fit for the position.
  • Size of classrooms: Classrooms must be big enough to seat all students and the instructor. The recommended size of a classroom is 7.9 m x 6.9 m but will vary with the number of students that are expected.
  • Qualified teaching staff: Teaching staff should have the necessary qualifications to teach relevant courses. Additionally, teaching staff of kindergartens, primary, secondary and post-secondary schools must be registered with the Education Bureau.

License Application Procedure

The application procedure for obtaining the School Registration Certificate involves submitting the following documents and information to the Education Bureau:

  • Prescribed application for Registration of a School
  • Prescribed application for Registration of a Manager
  • Prescribed additional information sheet detailing school particulars
  • Five copies of the proposed layout plan of the school premises
  • School premises Handover Certificate/Occupation Permit/Letter of Direct Allocation
  • Staff hiring expenditure
  • Syllabus
  • Textbook list
  • Class Timetables
  • Documentary proof of the right to use the premises, e.g. tenancy agreement, or sales and purchase agreement or authorization by landlord
  • If the school is named after a person or an organization, authorization by such person or organization
  • For a full-time kindergarten: Two additional copies of the layout plans and a lunch menu for pupils
  • For a school that will offer computer courses: A layout plan of the computer room designed according to the following principles – a computer for each student and a floor area of not less than 1.5 square meters for each student
  • Copies of the following clearances for school premises that are not designed and constructed as a school:
    • Town Planning Board Clearance
    • Land Registry Clearance
    • Fire Services Department Clearance
    • Buildings Department Clearance
    • Housing Department Clearance (only if the premises are in a Housing Estate or Commercial Building)

Generally, a complete application with all the necessary documents and information will be processed within 10-20 working days. Any incomplete or incorrect submission may result in delayed processing. Upon approval of the application, the Education Bureau will issue a Certificate of Registration of School.

If the Education Bureau finds that the application does not comply with all of the minimum requirements, it will issue a Certificate of Provisional Registration along with the list of requirements that the school must satisfy. The provisional certificate is normally valid for a one year period and the school must ensure that it complies with all the listed requirements within this period. Once the Education Bureau finds the school to be in full compliance with the requirements, it will grant full registration by issuing the Certificate of Registration of School.

Note that if school fails to comply with the requirements within the provisional registration validity period, the provisional registration of the school will not be extended automatically and the school will have to re-apply for the Certificate of Registration.

The Certificate of Registration of School must be displayed on the school premises at all times. Renewal of this certificate is not required as there is no expiry date.

Engage a professional services firm

Although you can apply for the School Registration Certificate on your own, it is advisable to engage a professional services firm to save time and resources.

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