Some 85 per cent of university students say the public must have the right to nominate chief executive candidates and to elect - by "one man, one vote" - a nominating committee that could also pick applicants for the top job, a poll conducted by a range of student unions has found.
An estimated 15,700 students from seven local universities - about 20 per cent of the total student population of the institutes - voted in the "referendum" that was held between last month and the middle of this month.
Two resolutions were presented to students to vote on: "From 2017, the chief executive candidates shall be nominated by civil nomination" and "From 2017, the nominating committee of the chief executive election shall be composed by 'one man, one vote'".
About 86 per cent of students voted in support of public nomination while some 85 per cent backed electing the nominating committee by "one man, one vote".
Student unions from the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University, the University of Science and Technology, Polytechnic University, Baptist University, Lingnan University and the Institute of Education participated in the poll.
In accordance with the constitutions of the universities' students unions, the results of the poll will now become their stance on the issue of political reform.
Eddie Chan Shu-fai, secretary general of the Federation of Students, said the view of the third-level education sector was now clear.
"The tertiary education sector has reached a consensus with our votes," Chan said.
The federation will now work on its own reform proposal based on the poll results in its annual meeting on Sunday, he said. It will also discuss with student unions what action could be taken to achieve those proposals.
Chan refused to rule out the prospect of the federation triggering strikes at universities if its proposals were not accepted by the government. "It's ridiculous for the government to rule out public nomination, when it meets international standards," he said.
Student unions at City University, Open University and Shue Yan University will hold the same polls there next week. Chan said he was confident that the results at the three universities would be similar.