PROMINENT local professionals have assured tertiary students their status and job opportunities will not be challenged after 1997 as long as their professional calibre keeps up with international standards. In a forum organised by the Hornell Hall of Hong Kong University, professionals from the medical, engineering, legal and surveying professions joined together to express their views on 'Professionals Traversing 1997 - Engineer, Doctor, Lawyer and Surveyor'. They addressed this year's freshmen because they will be the first batch to graduate after the handover in 1997. Leung Chun-ying, a member of the Preliminary Working Committee and the founder of a surveying company, believed tertiary students in the crucial period before 1997 should not let their apprehension about professional status hinder their academic development. 'Whether graduates before and after 1997 can survive the challenge does not solely rely on paper qualifications, the Basic Law nor the Joint Declaration,' Mr Leung said. 'It is our calibre, which stems from the collective power of the six million people, in retaining our competitiveness that counts in the long run.' He warned that local tertiary students should work harder to keep up with their mainland counterparts, who had become more competitive over the years. Professor Leung Tin-pui, Dean of the Department of Engineering at Hong Kong Polytechnic and outgoing president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineering, said: 'Tertiary students of this generation are too fond of having fun with their financial affluence. This deteriorates their sharpness as professionals.' Leong Che-hung , a Legislative Councillor and doctor, said the Special Administrative Region had the autonomy to administrate its own professionals' registration and practice, but he warned Hong Kong should not belittle the standard of Chinese professionals. Dr Leong said tertiary students should not merely aim at dealing with China in the future. 'Though we have to gauge the standard of the professionals from mainland China, the bottom line is how the world perceives Hong Kong professionals, not only China,' he said. 'At this moment, we should not take the 1997 transition of sovereignty as the turning point. Instead, we should take the present as the turning point to strengthen ourselves at full swing.' The professionals said the move by many local professional groups to remove links with their parent British associations would not lead to major changes in Hong Kong after 1997. Mr Leung concluded by saying Hong Kong's young professionals should strive to protect job opportunities both in Hong Kong and mainland China. 'I believe that there would be a major setback to Hong Kong professionals if all of a sudden they were not allowed to work in or for China,' he said. 'Therefore, while we have to hone our competitiveness, we also have to maintain a good relationship with the Chinese Government.'