Mainland study 'offers big benefits'
Although it's not widely known among Hong Kong students, education on the mainland has proven to be hugely beneficial, according to those who have taken the plunge.
With the mainland emerging as the No 1 economic powerhouse in the Asia Pacific region, mainland experience and contacts are now invaluable. Many of Hong Kong's best and brightest are including top mainland universities in their considerations.
Studying on the mainland is also less expensive than in Hong Kong, where associate and self-financed degrees cost about HK$50,000. Annual university tuition on the mainland for a Hong Kong student is only 4,500 yuan (HK$5,314).
'Both tuition fees and living expenses are cheaper on the mainland,' says Yip Chee-tim, principal of Pui Ching Middle School.
Fukien Secondary School principal Wong Kwan-yu says more than 20 of the school's students have gone to mainland universities over the past five years. He says all of those who graduated landed good jobs.
'All of them have come back to work,' he says. 'Their salaries aren't less than those of local graduates. They are now working in all kinds of industries, like tourism.'
That's the story that elite mainland universities want more Hongkongers to hear, and they are boosting their recruitment efforts to get the message out. Peking University representatives visited the University of Hong Kong, Pui Ching Middle School and St Mary's Canossian College last month.
'Students asked us many questions,' Peking University admission office manager Qin Chunhua says. 'Some are worried about their Putonghua proficiency level. Others are worried that studying in Peking University will be stressful ... But our university is the best in China and well known internationally. All the resources are concentrated in our school and students there have more opportunities than others.'
Until recently, agencies such as the Beijing-Hong Kong Academic Exchange Centre helped top mainland schools like Peking, Tsinghua and Fudan universities recruit students. Now the three universities send their own recruiters to Hong Kong.
A spokeswoman for the Fudan University admission office in Hong Kong says increased promotional efforts recently have included visiting Queen's College and Hang Seng School of Commerce. The Shanghai university admitted six Hong Kong scholarship students in the current academic year, compared with two in 2008.
Wah Yan College career mistress Ng Hing-wah says she will advise boys interested in engineering that Peking University's engineering undergraduates are among the top 1 per cent globally, as advised by a university representative. Attending the university is not easy, admits Kenny Ko Kay-bun, 24, a former straight-A student from Hong Kong Taoist Association Tang Hin Memorial School. 'It was freezing cold and you had to work very hard so as not to fall behind all the other elites around you,' he says. But now Ko works as an auditor with top-flight accounting firm KPMG.
Money was not his only motivator. The mainland knowledge Ko gained proved invaluable.
'My job involves many dealings with mainland clients,' he says. 'My mainland experience definitely gave me an edge over other job applicants.'
Annie Yu, another Hongkonger who studied at Peking University, agrees.
Her four-year course in international political economics helps her in her present job as assistant secretary at the Financial Services and Treasury Bureau.
Her job involves her in many mainland industrial and economic projects, and her experience there makes her a valuable asset.
Industrial engineer Edward Wong, 35, believes his mainland degree helps his career. He graduated from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology in 1998 but later decided to enter Tsinghua University's MBA programme in Beijing, graduating in 2008. He says the 18-month degree, which cost him 150,000 yuan, was a value-for-money choice as he wants to build a career on the mainland.