It's always good news when scholarships are announced.
Last week the University of Hong Kong's faculty of medicine announced the Springboard Scholarships for those who have overcome difficulties to make the grade for admission. Potential beneficiaries include the economically deprived and others recommended by school principals.
At present, HKU and Chinese University offer only about 400 first-year places each year. Only the cream of the crop of the more than 70,000 candidates in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination will win a spot. Financial support could encourage more talented youths to apply.
HKU also threw open the door to students interested in nursing. From next year, Form Six students need only apply with results in any two electives, which may or may not be science-related, in addition to the four core subjects of Chinese, English, Maths and Liberal Studies.
The relaxed entry requirements will enlarge the pool of candidates and give school leavers more study options. This is another welcome change, as senior form students are rarely clear about what to study or what will appeal to them until later. HKU says it will provide an intensive foundation course for students who had not taken science subjects in senior forms.
Faculty dean Gabriel Leung says academic results alone are not enough to make a good doctor or other medical professional. EQ, or emotional intelligence, and the ability to deal with adversity are as important as knowledge.
Recently a parent whose bright son has just got into medical school told me he chose the subject merely because it would allow him to make good money. His passion lies elsewhere. I wondered how and whether he could handle the stress and responsibility of meeting diverse patients' needs in the public system.
Certainly, basic competencies such as language, numerical and logical thinking skills are indispensable for complicated pursuits. But academic results don't guarantee the right kind of graduates. A sound evaluation of a candidate's disposition and drive for the medical discipline during admission interviews contributes to making the right selection.
HKU is also going to raise the level of recruits applying through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS) to 75 per cent, from 70 per cent.
As encouraging as it is, it underlies the preference universities have shown to graduates who have come through the non-local system; that is, an international curriculum such as the International Baccalaureate or British A-levels (more senior form students have left for Britain to do those courses before returning here for university). Other popular disciplines such as law and global finance are dominated by recruits from the non-local system.
Universities are clearly impressed with the global outlook the international curriculum is known for.
While broadening the pool of candidates is one thing, broadening the mind of students is another. Scholarships and new admissions criteria aside, local youth may have more options if they develop a broader perspective of life in general. Perhaps they should study out of interest rather than the desire to make a fast buck.