Only about half the mainland universities that accept local students exam-free are expected to have places left for the last round of enrolments starting today. It was hoped the scheme would help cope with a surge of university-entry students this year, as the last students from the abandoned A-level test and the first ones from its replacement, the Diploma of Secondary Education, both graduated. But fears are mounting that many applicants may miss out. Local students who obtain specified grades in the Hong Kong exams are eligible to apply for any of the 63 participating universities - including the renowned Peking and Tsinghua institutions - without having to sit any further tests. It was not known yesterday how many students had applied to the scheme, now in its ninth year. But a college principal whose school has been helping applicants said that as more universities stopped offering places, it was possible that a significant portion of local graduates would go nowhere. Kenneth Law Wing-cheung, head of Heung To College of Professional Studies, said the mainland authorities had been reluctant to lower the requirement for local applicants' English grades despite a request from the Hong Kong government. Citing a conversation with an official from the Beijing-based Ministry of Education, Law said the Education Bureau had asked the ministry to lower the requirement. Some students and parents attending a question-and-answer session about the scheme yesterday appeared worried about the likelihood of getting this last chance. Student Wendy Wong, who took the DSE exam, said she had applied for both local and mainland universities. 'I didn't really know much about [mainland universities],' she said, adding that she had marked two choices on her application. Law said there was not enough information about mainland universities to help students make a wise choice. 'Some universities, like Tianjin and Nankai, are very famous on the mainland, but few locals apply to them as they are not familiar with them,' Law said.