The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is expected to fund a record number of youngsters to study in universities on the Chinese mainland, a document from the regional government showed.
The move covers local secondary school students from low-income families or those with outstanding academic performances, and is expected to enhance the competitiveness of Hong Kong youngsters and foster greater exchanges between Hong Kong and the mainland.
According to the document recently submitted to Hong Kong's Legislative Council, it's estimated that about 4,500 students will benefit from the plan this academic year, with total funding reaching HK$63 million ($7.8 million), the highest number of students and funding since the plan was launched in 2014.
The Mainland University Study Subsidy Scheme offers from HK$5,900 to HK$19,400 per academic year to Hong Kong students pursuing bachelor's degrees on the mainland.
It has so far benefited 20,608 Hong Kong students attending 191 mainland universities.
Ivy Chan Ka-man, executive director of Youth New World, a local charity with over 25,000 members that helps primary and secondary students with their education, noted that Hong Kong students had shown a growing interest in studying on the mainland in recent years, and this subsidy has played a vital role in helping them with their academic pursuits.
According to Hong Kong's education bureau, the mainland is the top destination for Hong Kong students seeking to study outside the city, with 35.2 percent opting for mainland universities in 2021. In 2012, those choosing to study on the mainland accounted for 21.9 percent.
Chan emphasized that the country's increasing strength, which can provide abundant opportunities for graduates, is the most significant reason why Hong Kong students choose the mainland. Benefiting from the stable political environment in Hong Kong, more and more local students have a better understanding of the nation. Relatively low tuition fees at mainland universities are another factor.
Hong Kong students at mainland universities usually enjoy excellent career prospects, Chan said. After graduation, many were admitted to top schools in Europe and the United States for postgraduate studies or secured positions in well-known mainland companies. Some started their businesses in the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area. They can also easily find jobs in reputable investment banks and other prominent companies in Hong Kong, given their bilingual background and trilingual language ability, Chan said.
She hopes the subsidies will be expanded to cover postgraduates.
Fong Yiu-lam, vice-chairman of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Youth Association, said that through this plan students can gain a broader range of academic knowledge and disciplines, thereby enhancing their academic standards and international competitiveness.
Participating in the program can also help Hong Kong students establish connections with students from mainland universities, expand their network and seek a broader range of development opportunities and collaborative projects.
The scheme allows Hong Kong students to experience different cultures and social norms, enhancing their ability to work in a cross-cultural environment, Fong added.
Han Dan, a local resident whose child recently started secondary school, said that the plan highlights the importance Hong Kong places on talent development, and hoped that the government would introduce more supportive measures to assist students studying on the mainland.
Sophia Yeung, an 18-year-old Hong Kong student who plans to apply to Guangzhou-based Sun Yat-sen University or Shenzhen University this year, is learning more about the subsidy.
She said studying on the mainland presents an opportunity to experience a different way of life, and the intense academic atmosphere and compact curriculum at mainland universities will enhance students' academic performance.
Planning to study Chinese language and literature as her major, Yeung believes that mainland education will provide her with deeper insights into her study.