HONG KONG should not underestimate the value of investing in higher education, the president and vice-chancellor of Baptist University said during the institute's graduation ceremony. Dr Daniel Tse Chi-wai told graduates that education in general, and higher education in particular, was an important form of investment that society made today for its tomorrow. He dismissed criticism that the budget for tertiary education, set at $27 billion for the next three years, was too high. In his address at the university's 36th Commencement held last week at the Academic Community Hall, Dr Tse said although some people claimed that mass higher education had lowered the standard of graduates and was a waste of resources, there was no logic in this argument. He pointed out that the richer countries were generally those that had invested more in education, and that with a well-planned, wide-ranging university system, it was possible to increase the average 'market value' of graduates throughout the community. He said this was far more effective than an elitist system. Dr Tse said figures showed that from 1960 to 1989, not only had the education allocations of South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand kept up with their Gross National Product (GNP) growth, but their education expenditure had leaped from 2.2 per cent to 3.95 per cent of GNP. 'More and more countries now recognise that economic growth hinges on the development of human capital, and have made it more accessible to a larger number of young people who are capable of benefiting from it,' he said. On the other hand, Dr Tse added, young students must make the most of opportunities given to them. 'If through conscious efforts the students can broaden their knowledge, sharpen their analytical skills, enlarge their thinking capacity . . . then I am sure that the values added to themselves would far outweigh the resources spent on them. 'The beauty of this investment is that it brings benefits not only to society, but the individuals who have made the effort.' Speaking on behalf of honorary degree recipients, Professor John Belew, a university academic and administrator, stressed the importance of universities in the lives of nations. 'Universities acknowledge this with the increasing importance they are placing on international education activities, including the exchange of staff and students,' he said. The David Lam Institute for East-West Studies at Baptist University was highlighted by Professor Belew as a prime example of such co-operation in the field of international education. The professor, along with film star Jackie Chan, engineering expert Professor Wang Da-zhong and Dr George Wilson, a career missionary, were awarded honorary degrees by Governor Chris Patten in his capacity as chancellor of the university. A total of 1,666 full-time and part-time graduates were presented with awards.