The academic year kicked off yesterday in cramped style, with some students complaining of limited campus hostel spaces and long lines for buses, as the city's universities admitted double intakes of first-year students for the first time.
The first batch of senior secondary students joined their A-level counterparts on the first day at seven universities, including Chinese University, Baptist University, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST) and City University of Hong Kong.
Under the 3+3+4 system, pupils go through three years of junior secondary education and three years of senior secondary education. Those qualified to go on to university will take four years to complete standard courses.
As part of the education reform, this year saw the last batch of students take the A-level exams and the introduction of the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education test, resulting in two groups of university exam entrants.
Some first-year students at Chinese University found it difficult to secure a place in university hostels.
Elly Wu Yan-ting, a student at Chinese University's constituent college, United College, said: "All my friends in Tseung Kwan O [where I live] who got into [the college] cannot get a place in the hostels."
Wu also said that it took her an hour to get to the college campus in Sha Tin.
Rex Leung Tse-chun, a second-year business student at City University, noticed the marked difference at his campus: "Normally we don't have so many students on campus. But today there are so many [students] and I can't find space for lunch or to study."
Chinese University said there would be three new colleges founded by next year to accommodate more students.
Baptist University, which has several campuses, added more dining tables and seats at canteens, while HKUST in East Kowloon offered an annex in its library, added 800 outdoor seats at canteens and made shuttle bus arrivals and departures more frequent.
"To prepare for the double intake of freshmen [first-year students], we have gone all the way to take care of students' study environment, transport, housing and catering," said the HKUST president, Tony Chan Fan-cheong.
Leung Cheung-yan, an economics student, said people could not get onto the bus at the popular Choi Hung station. "I used to be one of the few in line at the Diamond Hill bus terminal, but there were more than 10 people before me when I got there," she said.
"All the computers were occupied in the lab and it was only the first day of school," Leung said.