Phenomenon appears rooted in favorable policies, economics
More students from Taiwan are applying to study at mainland universities this year than in the past.
Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, has received applications from about 600 Taiwan students this year, about five times the number of last year's applications, the university's admissions office said.
Moreover, candidates are of higher quality this year, it said. The university has selected 200 students for interviews but plans to enroll 60 of them.
"The basic requirement for an interview at our university is that they have to be in the top 25 percent in the Taiwan university entrance examination, equivalent to the national college entrance exam on the mainland," said an official with the admission office who didn't want to be named.
"We found that in recent years mainland universities have attracted more students from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan because of the significant development of higher education on the mainland," the official said.
The admissions office said it had accepted around 450 students from Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan last year.
Sun Yat-sen University is not the only one to receive more applications this year. Some 200 students from Taiwan applied to Xiamen University in Xiamen, Fujian province - also about five times last year's level - with all the students having been in the top 12 percent on the Taiwan exam, Xiamen Daily reported.
Cai You-ting, 21, a Taiwan resident who is now a junior at Xiamen University, said he was lucky to enroll. It was his top choice when he applied to mainland universities.
"My father is from Taiwan, but my mother's hometown is Hangzhou, so we travel a lot over the Straits. I always wanted to study at a mainland university, and XMU is close to Taiwan," he said.
Cai said more Taiwan students are interested in studying on the mainland because of its growing economic vitality and accompanying opportunities.
Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said the increasing number of applicants from Taiwan means the mainland's development is appealing to young people there.
This year, the central government rolled out 31 measures aimed at giving Taiwan residents who live on the mainland for study or work equal treatment with other mainland residents.
"It also means the favorable policies we issued are gaining popularity among Taiwan students, and that the trend will continue," said Ma.
Tang Yonghong, deputy director of the XMU's Taiwan Research Center, said: "The mainland is lowering the threshold for Taiwan students to apply to mainland universities, but individual universities have their own requirements."
Tang said economic progress on the mainland is the root cause of the phenomenon, with more job opportunities available than on the island.
"With a down economy, Taiwan cannot provide enough jobs for graduates. Many have to leave the island to hunt for work," he said. "Studying at mainland universities can help them become familiar with the local environment and make some friends before searching for a job."
"Most mainland companies treat them the same as local residents in hiring, and the pay in some occupations is even higher than in Taiwan," he added.