There is no such thing as an ordinary PolyU student, just a long list of remarkable ones. But even by this lofty institution's standards, student Yu Yiu-tung stands out. Mr Yu's personable character - 'please call me Ah Tung, all my friends do' - belies a gritty determination to work to make the university's student union work for its members. Just as importantly in his view is to forge a greater awareness of the need of its members to contribute to Hong Kong society. An undergraduate student of the department of electrical engineering, Mr Yu is a spirited 21-year-old who, like many of his peers, is well acquainted with the more challenging aspects of living in a famously unegalitarian society. Mr Yu shares a modest 500 sqft public-housing apartment in Tuen Mun with his parents and two sisters. He is also president of the Polytechnic University Student Union. 'My goals are to bring new ideas to the union. We need to bring more vitality back to the organisation, now 36 years old and in need of improvement,' he said. 'The first year I was elected as the external affairs secretary and I saw a lot of ridiculous things happening and the system appeared to be cracking. I was fearful the union would come to an end. I firmly believe the union is an important platform for students to participate in social affairs and university affairs, and I think I am best suited to take up the job of president to get the union back on track.' Part of his appeal, his peers said, was his focus. 'I think a clear goal is important. My cabinet understands my aim and that becomes our ambition,' he said. 'Clear paths help me to communicate with and lead my teammates to figure out how to achieve goals and evaluate results, which always help to deliver a better performance in the next job or project.' However, Mr Yu said he felt that he had much more work to do. 'The most pressing issue to me is the indifference of students towards the union and social and socio-economic issues in general,' he said. 'In the past, the participation of students in union activities was quite strong, but in recent years participation has fallen, especially in the realm we call external affairs. Some members tend to think that wider society is none of their business. So, one of the key responsibilities of the union is to organise more social activities, encourage members to take part in more social actions and be more concerned about social issues. This city belongs to all of us.' Mr Yu has matched his robust words with action. 'When [before I was president] I was the external affairs secretary I organised a campaign with some NGOs and we petitioned the chairman of the university council, who was the owner of a mainland factory where some workers were reportedly poisoned by hazardous chemicals. We demanded that these workers be compensated,' he said. 'We weren't fully successful but it certainly raised awareness among students of the need for more transparency and fairness - and improved working conditions - in Hong Kong-owned factories across the border. How did the university react? 'Well, put it this way, I think more than 80 per cent of students gained an understanding of the situation, which put a lot of pressure on council chairman,' Mr Yu said. Mr Yu has also been active closer to home. 'The next action I undertook, also when I was the external affairs secretary, was to organise a labour union for the cleaners and security guards who work on campus. My aim was to increase their awareness of their rights and organise the workers to fight for themselves,' he said. 'Now half of the cleaners and security guards are union members and enjoy union protection.' Above all, though Mr Yu is a young student, albeit one who has much to teach the more passive sectors of Hong Kong's workforce, he greatly values PolyU's teaching methods, as does 20-year-old Vincy Wong, a student in the department of industrial and systems engineering, who is majoring in enterprise engineering and e-business. Ms Wong was awarded the Stephen Kam Chuen Cheong Memorial (Non-academic) Scholarship in 2005-2006 and the Chiang Chen Overseas Exchange Scholarship in 2006-2007. She opted to be an exchange student in Sweden and found it a rewarding experience. 'I noticed that Swedish people are very self-disciplined. The students attend every lesson punctually and rarely talk during class time. They are serious and attentive in class and creative,' she said.