A low result or failing the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education liberal studies paper will not affect those who want to apply for a place at a university in Taiwan. As a record number of Hong Kong pupils prepare for this year's university entry examinations, Taiwanese universities have adopted a lenient attitude towards the results of a core subject under the diploma. Liberal studies joins Chinese, English and mathematics as a prerequisite for those wanting to enter Hong Kong universities. Shirley Lee Hsin, an official on the University Entrance Committee for Overseas Chinese Students in Taiwan, said that removing the requirement for liberal studies aimed to provide more opportunities for Hong Kong students who performed well in other subjects. 'Liberal studies is a lifelong learning process, and in our universities it can be learned from everyday life,' she said. Taiwanese universities are offering 15,000 places for students from Hong Kong and other countries this year. Lee said the number of applications from Hong Kong was already twice that of last year's 600. She said Taiwan was a good destination for students who wanted to be immersed in a liberal environment and get good value for their education dollar. According to official data, the annual tuition fee for public universities ranges from HK$10,000 to HK$20,000, depending on the subject. From next month, some 100,000 secondary school pupils will take part in the A-levels and diploma exams, as the former system is phased out to make way for educational reform. The diploma is designed to replace both the A-levels and the Hong Kong Certificate of Education for Form Five pupils. Earlier, the British Council advised universities not to reject students who did not achieve good results in liberal studies, but may excel in all other subjects, as the grading standard for the new subject was still unpredictable. Katherine Forestier, the council's education service director, said the goal of studying liberal studies was not about the examination results. Some local teachers have expressed concern that pupils who have never studied the subject before may fail the exam. A Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority spokeswoman said yesterday the new diploma examinations had been well received by overseas institutions. While individual institutions had their own minimum entry requirements, many would refer to the liberal studies results.