HONG KONG'S postgraduate education system is in a unique position to help upgrade the mainland's underdeveloped tertiary education, according to an academic. Speaking during the first Hong Kong Postgraduate Conference last week, which brought together students and academics from the territory's six universities, the chairman of the Research Grants Council, Professor Ko Ping-keung, said local postgraduate education should help boost education and research development in China. 'China needs to transform its tertiary education and we are in a unique position to help,' he said. According to Professor Ko, within two years the quota of postgraduate students from other countries in local tertiary institutions would be upgraded from the existing 20 per cent to 30 per cent in order to facilitate research development on both sides of the border. He dismissed criticism that this increase would prevent local students from receiving higher education. 'Hong Kong's supply of postgraduate students is still small. Their desire to pursue higher education is not very strong,' he said. 'We have adequate places to take students from China and the pool of potential candidates there is mutually beneficial to both sides.' The students from China would also help raise the standard and add value in research and development, he said. The mainland, with its tremendous potential to produce talented and well-educated scholars, was not able to provide first rate education to its students because of the country's inadequate investment in education and lack of established academics with education experience and exposure, Professor Ko said. Its predicament was the result of the adverse consequences of the Cultural Revolution and the exodus in 1989, he said. 'Their system is very ill in the sense that the faculty is ageing and facilities are out of date. They are not able to keep the best in their universities,' he said. With its close connection to the Western world, bilingual privileges, well-established education structure and research funding, Hong Kong was in an ideal position to help complement China's higher education, he said. 'Hong Kong is a unique environment that can attract scholars from both the outside world and mainland China. We can gather the best people in any field. They [China] can't find prime time people and we can give a good platform to bring them together,' Professor Ko said. 'We should work together and we can produce a good academic environment, good research and students,' he said. The one-day conference was opened by the University of Hong Kong's outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wang Gungwu.