【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.
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