In June 1989, the first student admission exercise went ahead as planned, and met with an overwhelming public response that astounded most sceptics. The 70,000 prospectuses were snapped up in one day, and eventually over 230,000 copies were distributed and all the information seminars had a full house. The 4,200 places available were allocated among the 65,000 applicants by a lottery instead of first come, first served. The Institute steadfastly resisted the call for selective admission, and decided to carry through its open entry policy with rapid expansion of opportunities. After two years, a balance of supply and demand was achieved. Later, the application procedure was further simplified by offering walk-in and online registration.

The Institute started small, but ‘thought big.’ In spite of a modest setup, its Schools were able to offer a full range of courses in the arts, social sciences, business and science disciplines from the beginning. The teaching, administration, broadcasting, publishing and printing services were up and running in the first month. External support was forthcoming from local institutions and schools which provided sufficient facilities for classes, experiments and self-study.

Hundreds of university staff and professionals in various fields served as part-time tutors. Commitment and efficiency were demonstrated by the management in the operation of classes, credit systems and assignments. Soon after registration, the course packs were delivered to the doorsteps of students’ homes, and the educational TV programmes were broadcast in the first week of the semester.