There's good news for fresh university graduates - the economy is recovering and they are likely to get higher starting salaries than those who joined the workforce two years ago. Last year's fresh graduates earned more than their 2003 counterparts who were badly affected by the Sars epidemic, surveys have revealed. For example, graduates from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology were offered an average starting salary of $10,688 a month last year - about 20 per cent higher than the figure for 2003. Another survey showed that Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) graduates earned an average monthly income of $13,628 last year, 5.9 per cent higher tha what their 2003 counterparts earned. CUHK graduate Janice Ku Chung-yi, 24, joined an information technology consultancy firm at a starting salary of $16,500 in May last year. 'I did not have much difficulty finding a job last year. The economy had improved a lot. My salary is much better than that of those who graduated from my department a year ago,' said Ms Ku. Chung Chi-keung, 24, who graduated from the University of Hong Kong's Department of Civil Engineering in 2003, earns less than Ms Ku. He attributed this to Sars. 'Many employers did not hire during spring and summer that year, which was the height of the Sars epidemic. Unfortunately that time was when university students graduated,' he recalled. 'I sent about 100 applications and received only 20 replies. The salary I was offered ranged from $8,000 to $9,000. I'm still making less than $10,000. I think it's unfair that latecomers are earning more than I do.' The economy has improved so much over the past few months that many final-year graduates already have job offers. Hung Ching-wan, 21, will soon join the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Central at $12,000 a month. 'About 90 per cent of my classmates have a job lined up. The starting salary is $12,000 to $13,000, comparatively higher than the last two years,' said the hotel and tourism management student from the CUHK. 'We are optimistic about the tourist industry, especially with Disneyland and luxury hotels due to open this year.' Virginia Choi, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management, said the economic revival provided fresh graduates with plenty of opportunities in the financial, banking and accounting sectors. But she stressed that individual ability and work attitude were key elements in setting salaries.