Hong Kong students consistently outperform their American peers in subjects like business, economics and engineering, the head of a leading US university says.
Gene Block, chancellor of the University of California Los Angeles, praised local students as he opened UCLA's first Asia office in Tsim Sha Tsui, part of an attempt to bolster recruitment in the region and build ties with local universities and alumni here.
"They consistently perform on average better than our domestic students," Block said.
Block described the new outpost for the university - which received more applications for undergraduate places than any other in the US this year - as "critical" to its future and the start of a "new day" for the institution.
He hopes the new office will help UCLA stay in touch with its substantial number of alumni in Asia, as well as boosting its recruitment and research efforts.
He said UCLA was working with researchers from the University of Science and Technology and had a student-exchange partnership with the University of Hong Kong. He met Chinese University officials over breakfast yesterday, he added.
"We plan to discuss fellowship training of medical students at UCLA … and how we can share medical expertise between our two institutions," said Block, who serves as the institution's CEO, unlike chancellors in Hong Kong, whose role is ceremonial.
He said 29 Hong Kong students would begin studies at UCLA this autumn, along with 290 from mainland China and 51 from Singapore. He said competition for UCLA places among Hongkongers was "intense".
Susan Madon, director of the University of Southern California's Hong Kong office, welcomed the arrival of UCLA.
"We're both very fine universities and I wish UCLA all the best in their venture," she said.
While USC opened its Asian outpost in 1999, Block said UCLA had been slow to follow because it had focused "nearly exclusively" on Californian students.
"It reflects a change in mindset on our part," he said. "We recognise the importance of having infrastructure in the region."
UCLA is one of the flagships of the University of California system along with UC Berkeley.