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HK Universities Go On a Charm Offensive
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University officials in Hong Kong admit the 10 percent quota they have for Chinese mainland students makes admissions very competitive but that has not stopped many schools from holding out even sweeter deals to woo students.


At least two universities Polytechnic University of Hong Kong and the University of Hong Kong (HKU) will either increase the scholarship fund pool or scholarships to match the rises in tuition costs that'll take effect in the fall.


And the City University (City U.) of Hong Kong plans to promote itself by inviting more senior middle school officials to the campus and sending some of its staff to the Chinese mainland for school visits.  


Hong Kong universities reported receiving about 30,000 applications from Chinese mainland students last year. HKU and the Polytechnic University each received about one-third of the applicants while the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology got 6,300.


City U. says it accepted 207 students from the Chinese mainland last year. About 40 were from Beijing with 75 from Shanghai, Zhejiang and Guangdong provinces.


Undergraduate education Vice-President, Richard Ho Yan-ki, said the university would step up its promotional campaign in smaller cities and other areas to have a wider representation of students. Thirty-eight principals, administrators and teachers from some of the Chinese mainland's top senior middle schools visited the campus last month to be briefed on next year's admissions strategy.


Ho said the university planned to invite about officials from 50 Chinese mainland schools in "far-off" places to visit the campus. The university would also send staff to participate in an educational expo on the Chinese mainland and visit schools in Shandong, Sichuan and Hunan provinces and Chongqing Municipality.


"We need to admit students from more places instead of having a high concentration from the big cities," Ho said. "It's important for us to help more Chinese mainland senior middle schools be familiar with Hong Kong's educational system and universities." In the award of scholarships Ho said requirements were to change but wouldn't say how.


City U. and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) now follow the Chinese mainland's standardized university admission examination system which awards students scholarship money or reduces or eliminates tuition fees depending on their scores. And City U. says it's considering giving extra credit to students who have won awards at the International Mathematics Olympiad.


HKU is planning to raise its tuition fee to HK$100,000 (US$12,800) a year from HK$80,000 (US$10,250) but academic registrar Henry Wai said a new HK$2 million (US$256,000) allocation from its HK$8.4-million (US$1.07 million) scholarship fund would offset the rise. Sixty students will benefit from the fund. This is up from 48.


"Many of our applicants are offered admission by prestigious Chinese mainland universities but they still apply to HKU," Wai said. "We're giving them an extra choice. And the increase of tuition fees would be compensated by more scholarships." Students may apply for the additional scholarships to pay for their tuition and living expenses.


Wai also said HKU would scrap its written admissions test in favor of interviews to assess the applicants' English-speaking skills.


Polytechnic University will increase its annual tuition for non-local students this fall to HK$70,000 (US$9,000) from HK$60,000 (US$7,700). To compensate the annual education allowances it grants to Chinese mainland students will rise to HK$110,000 (US$14,100) from HK$100,000 (US$12,800).


Some Chinese mainland travel agencies and individuals, most of whom are parents of college-age students, come to Hong Kong specifically to inquire about admissions, HKU's Wai said.


Although HKU has decided not to help the agencies organize campus tours it will arrange for "student ambassadors" to brief visitors on campus life.


City U's Ho said Hong Kong universities were not really competing with their Chinese mainland counterparts for good students. 90 percent of the total of 14,500 university seats are for local students leaving only 10 percent for students from elsewhere. "Even if the quota were increased to 30 percent Hong Kong would still get only about 4,500 students from outside," Ho said. "This is not going to create a significant impact on the Chinese mainland."


(China Daily January 11, 2007)

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