The number of Hong Kong students applying for Taiwan universities rebounded this year, yet the island's attraction in tertiary education is facing growing challenges from the mainland. Lee Chee-man, executive member of a Hong Kong-based institution in charge of enrolment for Taiwan's universities, said 324 Hong Kong secondary school students submitted applications this year, 52 per cent more than last year. Another 224 students applied for a preparatory scheme in Taiwan, which will see most of them get into universities within one year. 'We expect another 100 people to submit applications by August 17 when our recruitment ends,' said Mr Lee, who sees this year as a turning point after many years of declining student numbers. He attributed the rise to activities launched in the city which clarified some of the 'misunderstandings' held by Hongkongers. 'Some people doubted the quality of Taiwan's tertiary education and the value of its degrees,' he said. 'But in fact, the degrees received from Taiwan's universities are well accepted globally. And those who study the disciplines unavailable in Hong Kong are especially popular among employers in the city.' Lower costs and a good living environment were other advantages, he added. 'We forecast that next year, more than 1,000 Hong Kong students will apply to go to Taiwan,' said Mr Lee. But competition from the mainland is heating up. Tam Chi-keung, assistant professor of journalism and communication with Hong Kong Shue Yan University, predicted that the mainland would eventually replace Taiwan in its appeal to Hong Kong students. The number of Hongkongers going to mainland universities has risen steadily in recent years. This year, 628 secondary school students applied to take the entrance exam for mainland universities, the highest in four years. 'Today, not only Hong Kong students, but more and more Taiwanese are hoping to study in the mainland with expectations of brighter career prospects upon graduation,' Mr Tam said.