The eight publicly-funded institutions are holding a joint exhibition for the first time in Guangzhou and Beijing this spring, stepping up their drive to recruit mainland students. The Heads of Universities Committee (Hucom) agreed at a meeting this week to fill the 4 per cent quota for non-local students by looking across the border. Mainlanders now make up the bulk of non-local students in the territory. They numbered 742 at undergraduate and taught postgraduate levels in 2001. Hucom convenor Professor Ng Ching-fai said the new recruits would be admitted for the coming year and diversify the student population on campus. They would pay the same fees as locals. They would not add much to university income at present fee levels but could generate much more income when charged differential fees, say from 30 per cent to 80 per cent of the full tuition costs. Professor Ng, who is also president of Baptist University, added: 'Being competitive internationally, our business or medical schools can charge a much higher fee. We can also recruit from other places. 'We have to make ourselves better known abroad especially now the government expects universities to be more self-reliant on generating income.' Academics generally think that being dedicated to their studies, mainland students can have a positive impact on their local counterparts. But there were other hidden benefits, Professor Ng said. 'It would be beneficial to the local economy if they choose to remain in the territory after graduation. Having studied here, they will also develop various sorts of ties with the territory.'