Business / Policy Watch

New exam-free policy attracts HK students to mainland

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2014-01-20 00:23

Hong Kong student Huen Chak-ming never imagined his interest in traditional Chinese medicine could develop into a career until he received an admissions letter from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine last summer.

"If I had stayed in Hong Kong, I probably would have had to change my major because there are few universities offering classes in Chinese medicine, and opportunities for clinical practice are also rare," Huen said on Friday after finishing his first semester at the university.

Thanks to the exam-free policy, adopted by the Ministry of Education in 2012, Huen and 25 other Hong Kong secondary school graduates enrolled at the university in autumn 2013 without taking the Joint Entrance Examination, previously mandatory for students from Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao.

The exam-free admissions policy has made universities on the Chinese mainland attractive destinations for Hong Kong students.

Hong Kong students interested in enrolling in college on the mainland can apply directly to as many as 75 universities using their results from the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination.

The policy was inspired by then vice-premier Li Keqiang's call to boost academic exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland, a proposal Li made during his visit to the University of Hong Kong in August 2011.

The policy will attract more students to the mainland while relieving the admission pressure in Hong Kong, said Zhang Meng, deputy director of the Education Ministry's office of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan affairs.

Of the 73,000-plus final-year students who took the HKDSE in 2013, only about 26,000 scored high enough for Hong Kong university admission, according to the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority.

Wu Wai-yan, who was admitted to China University of Political Science and Law last year through the new policy, said subjects like math in the previous JEE exam, based on the mainland's high school curriculum, were unfairly difficult for Hong Kong students.

However, mainland universities still require Hong Kong students' HKDSE results to meet minimum standards, and officials arrange admission interviews to assess students' academic backgrounds and their ability to adapt to a new environment.

"Even without the exam, we won't lower the admission requirement for them because that would be unfair to mainland students," said Pei Yumei, director of the department of medicine for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macao students at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

The university received 149 applications from Hong Kong students in 2012 but it admitted only 45 after the interviews.

Despite the fierce competition, demand for exam-free university openings has soared, with 1,188 secondary school graduates being admitted to the mainland universities exam-free last year, a 22-percent increase from 2012.

A rigorous academic atmosphere, low tuition fees and exposure to mainland culture motivate Hong Kong students to study on the mainland.

Beijing University of Chinese Medicine freshman Amy Lin said the pressure from hard-working mainland classmates and various written exams have motivated her to study harder in a positive way.

"I even tried to wake up at 5 am to get a seat in the library to prepare for the final tests, which was an unforgettable experience for me," Lin said.

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