Inside track on dream unis all about accessCity talk | Terence Chang 18 Apr 2019
The two young people with a bright smile sitting before me, Jaysen Ma Chun-hin and Antonia Heng Pui-yi, are both members of Project Access Hong Kong.
Ma is a first-year student in physics at Oxford University. He said he didn't get a top grade in Chinese in the Diploma of Secondary Education examination, but still got a chance to go to Oxford because of information and support provided by Project Access.
Heng is doing her third year in experimental psychology at Oxford.
She is a founder of Project Access, a non-profit group founded by Oxford students to help talented local students from "ordinary" families go to Oxford, Cambridge and other UK universities.
"Ordinary" means "less privileged," she said. "To the less privileged students, the Oxbridge dream can be remote."
Ma went to a secondary school in a New Territories public housing estate.
"Most of my schoolmates aimed to go to local universities.
"A friend introduced me to a university student who volunteers at Project Access."
They helped him with his application to Oxford.
Heng is busy getting ready for her graduation examination.
"But I will find time to promote Project Access to extend support to students aspiring to go to the two universities," she said.
The stated objective of Project Access Hong Kong is to battle education inequality by helping less-privileged students gain admission to world-renowned UK universities.
Heng said the group focuses on helping DSE students. IB students should already have sufficient support to apply to overseas universities.
Project Access representatives go to schools to talk about its service.
"Over 10 secondary five students who will be making university applications in October for admission in 2020 have expressed interest. They have to get ready now," Heng said.
In the past two years, four students helped by Project Access have gained admission to Oxford and Cambridge, two for each institution.
"One of them is me," Ma said with a laugh.
He added, "Studying in the UK is more expensive than going to a local school, but it's worth it. I like their tutorial system. I have to prepare well for every class, or I will be tongue-tied. Everyone at Oxford works hard, and you can't slack off."
After our face to face, Heng sent me the link to the Project Access website for students who might be interested: https://www.projectaccesshk.com/
Terence Chang Cheuk-cheung is the retired headmaster of Diocesan Boys School