Special Report – Size and (student) population

In terms of campus size and comprehensiveness of the programmes offered the University of Macau clearly stands out. But the Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST) is home to more students than UM.

MB March 2021 Special Report | 40 years of (modern) tertiary education


MUST ranks first in the overall number of students enrolled, however of the 12,131, only 1,169 are local students; an overwhelming 90.4 per cent are from the mainland.

UM had 6,709 local students among the 10,974 enrolled in 2019/20, which means that more than 60 per cent are local students.

It is certainly not a coincidence that the four local, public, higher-education institutions (UM, Polytechnic Institute, Institute for Tourism Studies and the Academy of Public Security Forces) have more local than non-local students. In fact, UM is the one with the most balanced ratio.

However, the local university with the highest proportion of local students is not public: the University of Saint Joseph (USJ).

In the academic year that is serving as a reference, 1,228 students were enrolled, of which only 134 were non-local (12 per cent).

These numbers are related to the fact that mainland authorities have yet to issue student visas to study at USJ, an institution created by the Diocese of Macau and the Catholic University in Portugal. At the end of last year, however, two events showed that the blocking situation could end: first, a delegation of the new senior management team of the University visited the Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Then, one week later, Fu Ziying, director of the Central Government Liaison Office, visited USJ, and acknowledged “the university’s vision and development positioning and social values shared by the chancellor, ‘Truth, Charity, Justice, Life and Family’, which is in line with the core principle promoted in mainland China: ‘Always put people first, value people’s lives most.’”

On the local scene, USJ is also a case in point because the other private university in Macau, City University (CityU), also has a majority of non-local students (almost 63 per cent) attending its various courses.

There are an additional three higher education institutions in Macau, all of which are private and small in size: the Kiang Wu Nursing College of Macau (427 students in total), Macau Institute of Management (237) and Macau Millennium College (126). What they all have in common is that in addition to all of them enrolling less than 500 students, they have very high percentages of local students. The last two further have in common the fact that they are losing students after having reached enrolment peaks at the beginning of the past decade.

As can be seen from the table published on these pages, there has been no new higher education institution in Macau for 10 years (CityU was founded with this name in 2011), and for 20 years none have been started up (the last one was Macau Millennium College, 2001.


 Year established Ownership Registered students (2019/20) Local students ratio (2019/20)
University of Macau 1981 (UEA) 1991 (UM) Public 10,974 60 per cent
Macau Institute of Management 1984 Private 237 97 per cent
Academy of Public Security Forces 1988 Public 46 95 per cent
Macao Polytechnic Institute 1991 Public 3,515 80 per cent
City University of Macau 1992 (AIOU) 2011 (CityU) Private 5,717 37 per cent
Macao Institute for Tourism Studies 1995 Public 1,706 74 per cent
University of Saint Joseph 1996 (IIUM) 2009 (USJ) Private 1,228 88 per cent
Kiang Wu Nursing College of Macau 1999 Private 427 87 per cent
Macau University of Science and Technology 2000 Private 12,131 10 per cent
Macau Millennium College 2001 Private 126 95 per cent

State Key Laboratories

The University of Macau and MUST are the sole local universities, which have obtained approval from the Ministry of Science and Technology (MST) to establish State Key Laboratories.

The first batch of State Key Labs was granted approval in 2010 with the establishment of the State Key Laboratory of Quality Research in Chinese Medicines (jointly by MUST and UM) and the  State Key Laboratory of Analog and Mixed-Signal VLSI, to conduct cutting-edge research on various electronic systems (University of Macau).

In 2018, China’s MST approved another two State Key Labs: State Key Laboratory of Lunar and Planetary Sciences (MUST) and State Key Laboratory of Internet of Things for Smart City (UM).

 In Hong Kong universities, there are 16 State Key Laboratories accredited by Beijing.