The University of Southern California (USC) will speed up the screening of foreign students applying for admission next year given the longer time it may take them to obtain a US visa after the September 11 attacks. Vice-president and executive vice-provost Michael Diamond told Education Post that USC was committed to staying international despite the attacks. ''We just want to ease the path for students, to make sure that if any of them is delayed in their application for a visa, she or he can still come back and get in,'' said Professor Diamond during a visit to Hong Kong last week. ''We'll just have to work more efficiently.'' Seven per cent of the private research university's undergraduates come from outside the United States. Hong Kong is among the top five catchment areas for the its international student body, after Korea, India, China and Taiwan. The number of first-year students from Hong Kong has doubled to 70 this year. They are mostly enrolled in the schools of business, engineering or communication. A large USC delegation visited Hong Kong last week for its first International Alumni Conference, a get-together for alumni from Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. The conference also sought to further strengthen the alumni network in the region. Director of admissions Laurel Baker Tew also met parents of prospective students and school counsellors to whom she explained study opportunities at the university. Enquiries from Hong Kong about study there had risen this year, said Ms Tew.