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Editorial : Hong Kong should attract more mainland students

【明報專訊】FOUR DECADES ago, 52 students travelled abroad to study in the US, the first batch of students doing so since the launch of Reform and Opening Up. Last year the number increased to about 660,000. Two decades ago, the HKSAR government proposed for the first time the goal of developing Hong Kong into an international hub of education. But tertiary education in Hong Kong has been stuck in limbo — not only has it failed to attract talent, but it has also been unable to live up to public expectations about the attraction of mainland students to study in Hong Kong. The construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area requires a large amount of new talent. Hong Kong should play catch-up so as to provide talent for the country.

A mainland tycoon spent a ridiculous US$6.5 million to fabricate evidence of extracurricular activities for her daughter and bribe university officers and succeeded in getting her admitted by Stanford University "through the side door". Following the exposé of the affair, the student was expelled. The news caused an international sensation because it exposed loopholes in the enrolment systems of American universities as well as Chinese people's craze for studying abroad and getting into prestigious universities. Though it was an isolated case, mainland students' enthusiasm for studying abroad has been increasing with the economic situation getting better on the mainland. More and more people can now afford the exorbitant expenses to study abroad, while its students' academic records have greatly improved as well. Their expectations of universities overseas are becoming higher too.

In the past, mainland students gravitated to Hong Kong educational institutions. For several years in a row, straight-A students forwent Peking University and Tsinghua University to study at HKU and CUHK. But the situation has changed without many people noticing. The reasons are complicated, and they include a political atmosphere that is antagonistic towards the mainland, the lack of academic variety in Hong Kong and a poor employment market. That said, tertiary education still appeals to mainland students to a certain extent, as the number of mainland students studying in Hong Kong has been increasing slowly in recent years. However, public opinion in Hong Kong remains incessantly sceptical about the rise in the number of mainland students, whom they accuse of encroaching on Hong Kong resources.

In fact, the assertion that mainland students are encroaching on Hong Kong resources is groundless. Take HKU's intake of mainland students. Last year a total of 6,078 mainland students studied for undergraduate programmes and a variety of postgraduate programmes at the university. 2,706 of them studied for postgraduate programmes not funded by the government, meaning that 44% of mainland students did not receive any assistance from the government. During the same period, there were 3,490 international students studying at HKU, and 71% of them were enrolled in government-funded programmes at different levels. It is a question whether the SAR government has done enough to support international students and enhance the internationalisation of universities in Hong Kong. But it is a fact that mainland students have not received any special treatment. Even though 56% of mainland students received government assistance to a certain extent, they are conducive to enhancing the academic standards of HKU and the variety of its academic aura.

There is fertile soil for the development of tertiary education in Hong Kong. It is not impossible for the city to become an education hub. This will win Hong Kong more international fame and attract talent. Hong Kong should also provide talent for the country.

明報社評2019.05.13:中國留學40年 香港落後20年

40年前,改革開放後第一批52名留學生開始在美國攻讀課程,去年66萬學生出國留學。20年前,香港特區政府首次提出要將香港打造成國際教育樞紐,但香港高等教育踟躕不前,不但未能藉此招攬人才,在吸引內地學生來港升學方面,也未孚眾望。粵港澳大灣區的建設,需要大量新型的人才,香港應該急起直追,為國家培養人才。

內地富商狂花650萬美元,製造虛假課外活動證明,賄賂大學辦事員,讓女兒從「側門」進入史丹福大學,最後東窗事發,學生被開除學籍,事件轟動國際,一是美國大學招生制度的漏洞,二是中國人對留學以及進名校的狂熱。這當然只是偶發的個案,但內地學生對出國留學的熱中,隨着內地整體經濟水平上升而增加,更多人可以負擔得起高昂的留學費用,同時學生的學業成績也大有進步,對於海外大學的要求,也愈來愈高。

過去內地生對香港學府趨之若鶩,連續好幾年出現有優異成績的考生,放棄北大清華而取港大和中文大學的案例,而今情况已經悄然轉變,箇中原因複雜,「仇視內地」的政治氛圍、香港的學術範疇多元化不足、就業市場不佳等等,即使如此,香港高等教育對內地生仍然有一定吸引力,來港升學的數字近年仍然有小幅上升。然而,香港的輿論對於內地生人數的增加,還在不斷提出質疑,指內地生搶佔了香港的資源。

其實,搶佔香港資源的說法缺乏根據,以香港大學招收的內地生情况為例,該校去年共有6078名內地生就讀本科和不同類型的研究生課程,其中2706人是攻讀非政府資助的研究生課程,即44%的內地生沒有接受任何政府資助。與此同時,港大有3490名國際生,71%就讀不同等級的政府資助課程。特區政府對資助國際生以提高國際化水平是否做得足夠另說,但對內地生沒有特殊的照顧則是事實。即使56%的內地生受到某種比例的政府資助,但他們對提升港大的學術水平,以及學術氛圍的多元化,是有幫助的。

香港高等教育發展有優越的條件,成為教育樞紐也並非不可期,香港教育還可以為香港提高國際聲譽,招攬人才,更應該為國家培養人才。

■Glossary

limbo : a situation in which you are not certain what to do next, cannot take action, etc, especially because you are waiting for sb else to make a decision

exposé : an account of the facts of a situation, especially when these are shocking or have deliberately been kept secret

forgo : to decide not to have or do sth that you would like to have or do

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