In this paper I first place the development of Hong Kong's higher education in the larger context of education and governance histories. Next I describe one of the deepest policy quandaries for Hong Kong's government in charting the futures of its higher education system: whether to view the ultimate benefits of higher education for individuals in terms of 'sponsored' versus 'contest' mobility. I then turn to evidence from HK census data about the changing distribution of opportunity for higher education. I discuss trends in educational stratification since 1981, focusing most attention on changes in the opportunity for post-secondary and, especially, for university education to the Bachelors' degree level. I discuss methods for the use of Hong Kong's 1981, 1991 and 2001 census, and I present bivariate and multivariate analysis of the changing impact of family cultural and material resources on the odds of continuing and attending education at the university level. From 1991 to 2001, census data suggest there was a reversal of a trend towards greater equality of opportunity that was observed between the 1981 and 1991 census. I conclude by relating the findings from these analyses to future higher education planning in Hong Kong.
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