The present study assessed sexual behaviour, knowledge and attitudes among first year university students in order to identify factors that may affect their acceptance of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination. A cross-sectional survey was conducted at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in August 2006. The survey was a self-administered questionnaire comprising questions regarding general health, sexual behaviour, knowledge about HPV and cervical cancer, and attitudes towards vaccination. chi2, anova and logistic regression tests were used to identify associations between categories. Of 992 students, 63 (6.5%) reported having had sexual intercourse, 22.4% of whom had had more than one sexual partner and 36.5% had had unprotected sexual intercourse. A total of 70.8% of participants were willing to accept the HPV vaccine, with 'willingness' independently associated with age, having had sexual intercourse and beliefs regarding the effectiveness of vaccination (P < 0.05). Understanding the role of these influences can aid in the design of successful HPV education, prevention and vaccination programs.