Up to a quarter of students set to leave secondary school this year want to pursue higher education on the mainland or in Taiwan, but more than half of them are not clear about how to do so, a survey by a student guidance group has found.
Hok Yau Club found 18 per cent of students it surveyed were considering universities on the mainland, while 25 per cent were eyeing Taiwan.
The survey, conducted last month, polled 3,632 Form Six students taking the Diploma of Secondary Education exam this year across 29 schools.
As of December, 79,615 students were registered to take the exam, competing for about 15,000 government-funded university places.
A quarter of students said they were considering Taiwan because admission requirements were lower, while 21 per cent said the same for universities on the mainland.
Cheaper tuition fees were cited by 21 per cent as a reason to go to Taiwan, with 19 per cent citing that reason in choosing the mainland.
However, 55 per cent of the students said they were unsure of the quality of universities on the mainland and 50 per cent said the same of Taiwan.
About half said they were not familiar with admissions requirements at Taiwanese universities. For those considering the mainland, the figure was 40 per cent.
About 60 per cent and 55 per cent said they did not know how to apply to universities on the mainland and in Taiwan.
Many of those who said they would not consider the mainland and Taiwan expressed worries about how well the degrees would be received by employers in Hong Kong and how they would bode for entrance into postgraduate courses in Hong Kong and elsewhere.
Ng Po-shing, vice-director of the club's student guidance centre, said students should not only consider "superficial" criteria when contemplating going overseas to further their studies, as the decision was one that would affect them for a lifetime.
"We are worried that some students may be drawn to the mainland and Taiwan for university just because they think it's easier and cheaper," he said.
"But at the same time they forget they have to be clear about what their study interests are, their abilities and whether the degree they study is accepted in Hong Kong if they want to pursue a certain profession."
He said a means-tested grant for those going to study on the mainland - of HK$15,000 a year - proposed by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying in his policy address last month may attract more students to the possibility of pursuing higher education there, but in the long run, the government should provide more publicly funded local degree places.