DISTINGUISHED performances in the A-Level exams earned scholarships for 10 first-year engineering students of the University of Hong Kong. At a ceremony held recently at the university, the Civil and Structural Engineering students each received $12,500 from HKU Vice-Chancellor Professor Wang Gungwu. Over half of the awardees scored four distinctions in their matriculation examinations to win recommendations for the Dr C. C. Liao Scholarship. Many of them were also previous scholarship winners in their own schools. Dr Paul Cheung, Dean of Engineering, said the academic quality of this year's intake for Civil and Structural Engineering was exceptional. 'The students recognise lots of development potential in civil engineering in Hong Kong, China, and, in fact, the Asia Pacific area,' he said. The candidates agreed that confidence in an economically emerging China had made them choose Civil and Structural Engineering. 'My initial choices were either computer or law studies,' said Kendy Lui Ho-yuen. 'But I changed my mind after considering the uncertain future of the legal profession as we approach 1997, and seeing the manpower excess in the computer field. 'On the other hand, I see great potential for infrastructure construction in southern China and Southeast Asia. Many of these places are behind Hong Kong in development. I think we can be a leader in providing professional help in civil and structural engineering for them.' Fujian-born Shum Jin, who came to Hong Kong as a four-year-old, thought the same. 'The development in Southern China implies a need for civil engineering manpower. The opportunity to develop a career is there,' he said. The students do not see the changeover as a threat to development in Hong Kong. 'Technological development is ongoing. It's a separate matter from political development. 'And right now there are ample opportunities for expansion in this region,' Shum Jin said. Thomas Wong Kwok-chi, who also happens to be a Sir Edward Youde Memorial Prize winner, said: 'The Faculty of Engineering is a popular choice, and there were many four-distinction scorers like us who applied.' Asked what her formula for success was, Kendy said: 'I think it's the upward struggle, and the will to make it. It helps you to keep making progress.'