Academics have questioned Chief Executive Tung Chee- hwa's commitment to higher education, suggesting that his Policy Address was long on platitudes but short on substance. Vice-chancellor of Chinese University of Hong Kong Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said Mr Tung should have taken a more pro-active approach, saying 'actions speak louder than words'. Whereas Mr Tung claimed that he aimed to enhance the quality of education in tertiary institutions, he had not mentioned anything about funding increases. 'This is somewhat conflicting,' he said, adding that the address concentrated more on economic revival than education. 'Education is an investment in nurturing professionals for our society. 'Mr Tung should have put more effort on the whole education system,' he said. Professor Li hoped the Government would extend tertiary education to four years. He applauded the plan to turn Hong Kong into an in ternational centre for Chinese medicine, saying it would help raise the profession's status in the SAR. Professor Ng Ching-fai, dean of the Science Faculty at Hong Kong Baptist University, questioned the policy's feasibility. He doubted if the University Grants Committee had sufficient funds to develop centres of excellence. He called on the Government to speed up efforts to boost standards from pre-school to tertiary levels. Professor Chang Hsin-kang, president of the City University of Hong Kong, welcomed Mr Tung's 'practical' approach to education. Although the Chief Executive only had touched on tertiary education, other features of the address were directly related to it, he said. 'The address emphasised the importance of information technology and quality education. Universities will play a major role in the nurturing of experts in IT - not just for education but for the film industry and the financial and commercial sectors.' Professor Chang was disappointed that more non-local students could not be accommodated. 'Having 150 outstanding mainland students is acceptable, but of course the more the better. More non-local students would inject healthy competition and broaden the horizons of local students.' Professor Cheng Yiu-chung, vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, said Mr Tung's address followed global trends. 'The 21st century will rely on two things - innovation of technology and education,' he said. 'Universities are now entering the consultative phase. What we have to do is help the Government carry out its goals. Therefore, we should play a major role in developing information technology.' Professor Leung Tin-pui, vice-president of Hong Kong Polytechnic University, welcomed the $44 billion earmarked for education. 'It's encouraging to know that, even in the current economic downturn, the Government is willing to increase its spending. 'It's a good decision as education is a long-term investment.' Professor Leung was pleased the Chief Executive had recognised the efforts of tertiary institutions in recruiting overseas and mainland students to help local students broaden their outlook. Professor Ho Lok-shang, head of the Economics Department at Lingnan College, called on the Government to give schools more autonomy in managing their affairs. 'The Chief Executive failed to make a commitment on the review of a new educational framework proposed by the eight heads,' he said, adding that the issue of tertiary budgets was not raised. Professor Tam Sheung-Wai, president of Open University, said the address clearly demonstrated the Government's awareness of the importance of life-long learning. 'We're very pleased to learn that the Chief Executive has recognised our efforts in promoting distance learning and life-long education,' he said. Professor Otto Lin Chui- chau, vice-president for Research and Development, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said investment in education in Hong Kong had traditionally been too low. While praising the tone of the address, Professor Lin said he was looking forward to seeing the specifics of how it would be implemented.