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HK seeks to lure brightest young minds
Latest Updated by 2006-07-14 10:27:04

Globalization of higher education and a surge in the number of mainland students looking southwards for tertiary studies has prompted the Hong Kong government to establish a steering committee to promote the city as a regional education hub.

The committee, headed by Chief Secretary for Administration Rafael Hui, is charged with studying and formulating policies in areas such as immigration and employment. The purpose of this extensive exercise is to bolster Hong Kong's competitiveness in the global battle for the brightest young minds.

Relaxation of immigration rules to allow tertiary institutions to accept more non-local students is the key to the success of the education hub plan, which is pretty much still on the drawing board.

Hong Kong raised the quota for non-local students from 4 to 10 per cent last year. But university leaders want an incremental growth to 20 per cent.

The city's eight publicly funded universities enrolled 4,700 non-local students in 2005-2006, or 6 per cent of the total student population. Mainlanders made up the bulk of the recruits because of their geographical proximity and cultural affinity.

They accounted for more than 90 per cent of non-local undergraduates and postgraduates at Chinese University and City University and 89 per cent at Polytechnic University. Meanwhile, 54 per cent of the University of Hong Kong's (HKU) non-local undergraduates and 76 per cent of its postgraduates come from the mainland.

Though traditionally prestigious seats of learning such as Peking University and Tsinghua University will continue to attract the top performers in the college entrance exams, more mainland students are expected to make a beeline for Hong Kong this year.

The extent of the inflow can be gauged by HKU's recent announcement that it has received 10,000 applications for undergraduate studies alone this year compared to 4,848 last year.

Mainland students have a number of reasons to choose Hong Kong, not least because it's a place where the East meets West. They are drawn to the city's multicultural and multilingual environment, hoping to benefit from its more global outlook.

Some opt for it because of the generous scholarships offered to top performers. HKU, for an example, has earmarked a scholarship budget of HK$55 million (US$7.1 million) for mainlanders, with students getting anything between HK$30,000 (US$3,896) and HK$100,000 (US$12,987) a year.

Good employment prospects are also a temptation the students find hard to resist, especially when well-paid jobs are becoming a rarity on the mainland nowadays. An HKU survey shows that 99 per cent of its 2005 graduates are either employed or pursuing further studies. Those working earn an average salary of HK$14,214 (US$1,822) a month, with some making as much as HK$74,443 (US$9,544).

But Hong Kong may not be the best choice for all, particularly students pursuing natural sciences. What's worse, the city has limited employment opportunities in this field.

Unless they get a scholarship, mainland students should think twice before moving to Hong Kong. They ought to realize that the cost of education is too heavy a burden for an average mainland family to bear. University fees range from HK$60,000 (US$7,792) to HK$80,000 (US$10,390) a year. Meanwhile, the cost of living in Hong Kong is the fourth-highest in the world.

But despite all the odds, more mainland students will flock to Hong Kong and help this regional education hub take shape.

Editor: Wing

By:Zou Hanru Source:China Daily Website
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