Walt Disney is teaming up with the Polytechnic University in a plan for students to undergo training in the United States to prepare for the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland in 2005. Professor Ray Pine, head of the university's hotel and tourism management department, revealed yesterday that discussions with Disney had taken place to create a programme for students to train at Disney's US theme parks. 'This is something Disney wants to do and we're in favour of it. When the Hong Kong Disneyland opens, there will be a stronger base of staff.' He said the idea was similar to Disney's current annual internship programme in which Hong Kong students are picked to work as cultural representatives at the China Pavilion at Epcot Centre in Disney World, Florida. Professor Pine said they were hoping to create a similar programme as early as next year to allow students to work at more Disney theme parks. The senior representative of Disney Worldwide Services' recruiting unit, Kimberly Warsicki, said the programme allowed participants to learn about the operation of the company. Ms Warsicki, who spent two days interviewing students for the programme, gave a hint of their selection criteria. 'We're looking for enthusiasm and passion for their own country,' she said. 'We're also looking for attention to the guests' needs.' Her team will pick about 80 candidates from China for the programme this year, including hotel employees from five mainland cities and students from the Polytechnic and Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education. Professor Pine said only about 200 local students had been sent on the programme over the past 15 years so there was a need to train more to prepare for the opening of Hong Kong Disneyland. He also urged the Government to expand student quotas for tourism-related disciplines as the industry was expected to expand. He said the Government's capping of the university's full-time student quotas at 14,500 had made expansion difficult as it would need to be done at the expense of quotas on other courses. Professor Pine said his department's intake for the degree course this academic year was 80 and would have been cut to 73 next year. But with the signing of the Disney deal, the quota for next year had been increased to 78.