UNIVERSITY students should study for an extra year to match four-year undergraduate programmes elsewhere in the world, the Chinese University's vice-chancellor designate said yesterday. Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said he would raise the proposal agreed by other universities' heads with the Chinese authorities after 1997 as there was little chance of changing the British three-year model before the changeover. The pledge was among a range of promises made yesterday by Professor Li, due in the next academic year to replace Professor Charles Kao Kuen, who is retiring. Professor Li, a Hong Kong affairs adviser, also pledged to maintain academic independence. He believed such freedoms could be guaranteed even if the overriding power of the Bill of Rights was stripped after 1997 according to the Preliminary Working Committee proposals. 'In the Basic Law and Joint Declaration, academic freedom is guaranteed. 'If you look at the track record of China, it always keeps its word on international obligations. 'China has been opposing the Bill of Rights. It has power to do this [to strip the bill's power after 1997],' Professor Li said. He said he would accept any mainland appointment if it helped raise the university's status and influence. He hoped the university could develop into Hong Kong's leading university, training top-class leaders for the region. But he said the present three-year undergraduate system gave insufficient time to develop students' potential and language skills and should be extended. Professor Li, 50, hoped he could serve the university until the retirement age of 60. He was chosen from among 30 candidates in a process which students dubbed as a 'black-box operation', lacking in transparency. Professor Li said he wanted students to have the right to vote on selecting their vice-chancellor as long as they could maintain confidentiality. The professor, who joined the university in 1982, is dean of the medical faculty.