MANY Australian universities are establishing closer academic links with China at a time when the mainland is experiencing a shortage of professionals to meet the demand for drastic development and rapid economic growth. University of Western Sydney (Hawkesbury) has recently signed agreements with 25 universities in southern China, and 25 other institutions for exchanges of staff and research on a variety of subjects, including commerce, horticulture, nursing and hospitality. Associate Professor of Marketing Ross Cameron said there had already been a number of informal contacts with Chinese universities although their institution was only established in 1989. The university had been an agricultural school for a century but, given the fast development in western Sydney, the government decided to merge it, together with other institutions in the area, into a university four years ago. Dr Cameron said the college had been aware of the tremendous demand for professionals in China for some time and believed the co-operation would foster better cultural exchanges between the two countries. ''The Asia-Pacific will no doubt be the fastest growing region in the world in the next few years and, being a part of the region, it is only natural we take a more active role,'' he said. ''China has a huge shortage of professionals to keep up with the development and we hope the co-operation will be useful to them.'' Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has given priority to establishing closer relationships with Chinese universities. The move was encouraged by the Australian Government, which allocated A$5 million every year for programmes to facilitate exchanges between institutions in the Asia-Pacific region, Head of QUT's International Relations Kieran O'Brien said. One of the programs undertaken by QUT was a $250,000 joint-project with the Wuhan University of Science on setting up a land information system centre, Mr O'Brien said. ''We are developing these kind of links, which will benefit staff and students from both Australia and China,'' he said. ''This falls in line with our policy to become a truly international university.'' Mr O'Brien also said the college might develop its Chinese policy through Hong Kong. ''We would like to consolidate in Hong Kong first and start from there to China,'' he said. That meant there would be more courses jointly offered by QUT and tertiary education institutions in Hong Kong so students could attain qualifications without having to leave the territory, he added. One of the programmes under discussion is a diploma course on information technology with the Hong Kong Baptist College. The Academic director at the Faculty of Information Technology, Mike Roggenkamp, said the proposal would allow students to complete the one-year course in Hong Kong. If students wanted to obtain higher qualifications, they could get up to a one year exemption if they applied for the same course at QUT, said Mr Roggenkamp. ''This will be much cheaper and more convenient for Hong Kong students, and they will have more time to decide if they want to come over eventually,'' he said. He said the course could be opened in September 1994 and there would be a great demand. because the technique was commonly used in the territory. In a reciprocal operation, education professionals from China had approached the University of Queensland to study the possibility of building a new college affiliated with the university for Chinese students.