The University Grants Committee has proposed the government raise the cap on foreign students to 8 per cent of first-year intake, up from 4 per cent. Committee secretary-general Michael Stone said yesterday that accepting more students of diverse nationalities and academic background would help improve the local learning environment. But the committee does not propose increasing the number of subsidised places for foreign students. Successful applicants for the extra slots would pay higher fees. 'We don't want to crowd out our own students by having too many non-local students occupying subsidised places,' said Mr Stone, in his first press conference since taking up his position last month. 'The future fees can vary from course to course and depend on the additional direct costs worked out by each institution for taking on more students. If an institution can charge a high fee for an attractive course, why not?' But he acknowledged it was odd that some non-local students in future might have to pay higher fees while others continued to pay the same as locals. More discussions would be needed with institution on the fee issue. Non-local students now make up only 1.7 per cent of all undergraduates, many of whom come from the mainland on scholarship. A further 4 per cent would mean 580 more students. Henry Wai Wing-kuen, registrar at the University of Hong Kong, said the university was ready to recruit more outside students from next year. He expects the cost for each student to be about $100,000 a year for most subjects but up to $300,000 for medical studies. The university would look for scholarships for those paying higher fees, he said. Meanwhile, the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation will recognise degrees and credits from several mainland universities and technical colleges. The Education and Manpower Bureau is expected to make a final decision soon on recognising these mainland graduates.