Govt urged to aid HK students bound for mainland

Updated: 2012-12-12 08:12

By Timothy Chui(HK Edition)

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Lawmakers are calling on the administration to offer subsidies and interest-free loans to students seeking higher education on the mainland amid the serious shortage of locally subsidized university placements.

"It is 'One Country, Two Systems'. If our students can study on the mainland, they are in line with the many functions of our society. Since we cannot afford many subsidized university places locally, have you considered providing subsidies for Hong Kong students to study on the mainland?" election committee lawmaker Ma Fung-kwok asked the Education Department at the Legislative Council on Tuesday.

"This is a big issue, our subsidy policy is to subsidize students studying in Hong Kong only. For those who study outside of Hong Kong, we need to consider on the whole, policy wise, whether we should subsidize students studying overseas and not just on the mainland but in other countries," Undersecretary for Education Kevin Yeung said, adding, "The amount involved could be huge."

Ma retorted that while local financing was expensive, financing studies on the mainland would be much cheaper.

A pilot scheme for Hong Kong students to apply for higher education on the mainland has been set up, allowing students to apply on the basis of local examinations starting this year and exempting them from taking entrance examinations for overseas Chinese, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwanese students.

Previously, local students had to pass multiple interviews, as well as the mainland's entrance exams. The present scheme is an one-way agreement not applicable to mainland students and allows local students to focus exclusively on local exams, Yeung said.

Seven more universities will join the scheme next year, while 63 higher education institutions across 11 mainland provinces and municipalities are currently participating.

Minimum entrance requirements for local students have been set at Level 3 for Chinese and English Language skills as well as Level 2 for Mathematics and Liberal Studies.

Each applicant is allowed to apply to four institutions.

Although the government does not have an estimate on how many students had applied to study on the mainland, by May 2012, mainland institutions had made 3,433 conditional offers and 971 Hong Kong students have been admitted under the scheme.

A pilot scheme launched in November 2011 attracted more than 4,200 Hong Kong students from more than 480 schools, according to the Education Department.

Vice-chair of the panel Ip Kin-yuen and social welfare sector legislator Peter Cheung Kwok-che suggested the government consider handing out interest-free loans to local students who opt to study on the mainland. Yeung said the department would consider the request, but only after the conclusion of a current post-secondary education review.

New Territories East lawmaker Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung remarked that the number of local university places had only risen a few hundred over the past two decades, well under levels required to maintain university enrollment amongst eligible students.

Earlier this year, the central government has signed a memorandum of understanding with 17 local institutions and 17 mainland universities to set up a special fund next year, which will subsidize 2,000 local students to take up studies and research on the mainland every year.

It will also subsidize some 7,000 students to take part in summer exchanges and visit programs.

The University of Hong Kong has a central government subsidized program in which 1,000 students and academic staff are afforded exchanges, scientific studies and other studies every year.

(HK Edition 12/12/2012 page1)