The Chinese University of Hong Kong's medical school is extending its reach to the mainland. University officials are laying plans to help train doctors at Shenzhen University's three-year-old medical school. From next year, the university will admit 10 medical students annually from Shantou University to study for a year at its medical faculty. It is an ongoing integration. Already, about half the postgraduate medical students at the university are from the mainland. That integration will increase in the next five years. At this year's Guangdong provincial People's Congress meeting, officials announced a series of co-operative ventures in higher education involving Hong Kong and coastal cities. The ventures are listed in Guangdong's 12th five-year plan as initiatives to strengthen co-operation with Hong Kong. The deputy director of the provincial Educational Department, Wei Zhonglin , said discussions were progressing smoothly on plans for at least four Hong Kong universities to establish branches in Guangdong. Professor Joseph Sung Jao-yiu, vice-chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, confirmed that Shenzhen University's medical school had invited the medical faculty to co-operate in various ways. 'It's at the very preliminary stage,' Sung said. 'We have to study it further.' The university would set up a task force to discuss avenues of co-operation, Professor Fok Tai-fai, its dean of medicine, said. Opened in 2007, the Shenzhen medical school is still small. 'We are happy to share our experience with them, such as curriculum design and teaching methods,' Fok said. 'We may also send our teaching staff there for exchanges.' The university's moves come as the University of Hong Kong prepares to begin operating a public hospital in Shenzhen in August. Supported by the Ministry of Health, the groundbreaking project is touted as a showcase for health-care reform on the mainland. Binhai Hospital will open its first 600 beds in August and will become fully operational, with 2,000 beds, in 2013. It will be the University of Hong Kong's second teaching hospital after Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam. Fok said Chinese University's medical school had no plans to follow HKU's example. 'We have not thought about running a hospital on the mainland,' Fok said. 'We focus on our work in Hong Kong.' Hong Kong medical institutions had the advantage and expertise in English teaching, which was not yet common on the mainland, said Professor Chan Wai-yee, director of Chinese University's school of biomedical sciences. Chan said cross-border co-operation in medical education was an irreversible trend that benefited both sides. Two years ago, the school and Jinan University set up a laboratory for joint research on the latter's Guangzhou campus with the support of the Ministry of Education. The biomedical science school's four teaching academics each supervise two postgraduate students at Jinan. Chan said that the joint arrangement allowed Chinese University researchers to apply for mainland research funds, an added source of finance for Hong Kong scientists. 'It is a win-win situation,' he said. 'Our academics can use the laboratory resources at Jinan, and the students there help their research. In return, our staff help teach their students.' The medical school also collaborates with the Zhejiang University in selecting students to study in doctorate programmes in Hong Kong. Chan said it was to Hong Kong's benefit that mainland students were now filling about half the medical research student slots. 'Most Hong Kong medical graduates will take up a job after their studies and very few want to continue research,' Chan said. 'Mainland students become our important source of research students.' Yao Yao, a Guangzhou resident who began studying for a three-year doctorate in biomedical sciences at Chinese University in August, said she found the experience of studying in Hong Kong very rewarding. The stem-cell researcher got her master's degree at Jinan University before coming to Hong Kong. 'The discussion in medical studies in Hong Kong is very free and active, and I can mix with academics and students from different backgrounds,' said Yao.