University students and foreigners in Hong Kong are queuing to learn Putonghua - and for one of the top centres of Cantonese scholarship, that is bad news. While 457 foreigners graduated from Chinese University's Putonghua course last year, it taught only 242 foreigners Cantonese, against 334 in 2001. This month, five of the six full-time Cantonese teachers at the university's Chinese Language Centre lost their jobs. Chinese University and the University of Hong Kong have seen a surge in interest in Putonghua among undergraduates. At HKU, the number learning the language has shot up 30 per cent this year; at Chinese University, 3,000 are taking Putonghua 'to add an extra tool in their tool bags', said Wu Weiping, head of its language centre. Mainland students in Hong Kong also want an extra tool in the bag. More are learning Cantonese so they can work in the city, he says. Across the border, Cantonese still rules, Guangdong Communist Party secretary Zhang Dejiang said this week as he urged the province to embrace Putonghua. People in Guangdong were not interested in Putonghua TV shows, he said.