The pluses of mainland studies
As China has become an economic powerhouse, universities on the mainland have emerged as a viable option for Hong Kong's best and brightest.
The standard of instruction has risen, while studying there is less expensive than in Hong Kong. Annual university tuition on the mainland for a Hong Kong student is only 4,500 yuan (HK$5,314), as against HK$50,000 for associate and self-financed degrees here.
'Both tuition fees and living expenses are cheaper on the mainland,' said Yip Chee-tim, principal of Pui Ching Middle School.
Fukien Secondary School principal Wong Kwan-yu said more than 20 of the school's students have gone to mainland universities over the past five years. All of those who graduated landed good jobs, he added.
'All of them have come back to work,' he said. '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. 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 said 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 this academic year, as opposed to 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. Attending the university is not easy, Kenny Ko Kay-bun, 24, said. He's 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 said. But now Ko works as an auditor with top-flight accounting firm KPMG. The mainland knowledge Ko gained proved invaluable,
'My job involves many dealings with mainland clients,' he said. 'My mainland experience definitely gave me an edge over other 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. She often works on mainland industrial and economic projects.
Industrial engineer Edward Wong, 35, a graduate of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, went on to study at Tsinghua University's MBA programme in Beijing. A 18-month degree cost him 150,000 yuan. It was good value for money, he said.