A group of outstanding university students have received scholarships from the Hong Kong Jockey Club to fund their three-year degree courses. Jockey Club chairman Alan Li presented the awards to 18 first- year students from the eight tertiary institutions funded by the University Grants Committee (UGC). They were the first recipients of the scholarships, each worth about $290,000, which was launched last year. The scheme covers a period of 10 years and provides 26 scholarships annually, beginning in the 1998-99 academic year. The remaining scholarships have been allocated to eight mainland students who will be able to continue their studies at each of the UGC-funded tertiary institutes in Hong Kong. 'Jockey Club has always championed the cause of education,' Mr Li said. 'This is a tradition at the club which has helped educate the poor, recognise excellent scholars, and build schools, universities and student hostels. 'The surplus from horse-racing has also been used to provide hi-tech teaching equipment and facilities, as well as to fund research grants.' Over the past 37 years, the Jockey Club has set up a number of scholarships at the secondary and tertiary levels and provided sports, music and dance training for young people. Scholarships have also been awarded to Hong Kong students to pursue university education overseas. Speaking at the presentation ceremony at the Happy Valley headquarters of the Jockey Club, chief executive Lawrence Wong said: 'This is where the club's charity effort starts. 'Out there on the racetrack - or in Sha Tin - horses provide entertainment to millions throughout the year and enable the club to fund not just education projects, but hospitals, clinics, parks, sports centres and other community projects.' The newly launched scholarship covers tuition fees, living costs and other expenses for three years and is for students pursuing a degree programme for the first time. The selection is done by the institutions and endorsed by their trustees. The main selection criteria are that candidates should have outstanding academic or extra-curricular achievements and demonstrate a strong commitment to serve the community.