Billions of dollars more would be needed to fulfil the goals of planned education reforms, officials were told yesterday, as a last-minute deluge of submissions flooded the Education Commission. The third round of consultation on the reforms ended yesterday after three months, with a rush of 1,800 submissions in the last three hours, bringing the total number to 8,600. The agency received 14,000 and 2,600 submissions in the first and second rounds, respectively. A spokesman for the Education and Manpower Bureau said the commission would analyse all counter ideas before submitting final proposals to Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa. Educators believe the costliest elements will be the extension of secondary schooling from five to six years and undergraduate programmes from three to four years. Eight university chiefs have demanded the Government provide 20 per cent extra funding for the switch to four-year degrees to prevent universities having to cut the number of first-year students. But the commission has stressed all extra resources will be devoted to improving basic education. Education expenditure is about $45 billion a year and tertiary education absorbs about a third of the total. University of Science and Technology president Professor Woo Chia-wei said he supported the direction of the reforms but said the Government should spend more. 'In Taiwan, education expenditure accounts for 6.75 per cent of gross national product but the proportion in the SAR is less than four per cent,' he said. 'Don't forget that Hong Kong is wealthier than Taiwan. It is nearly impossible for us to run a four-year system with existing resources while maintaining teaching and research quality.' The Business and Professionals Federation said it supported private contributions to education. But federation chairman Wilfred Wong Ying-wai said: 'Given the importance placed on education by citizens, the federation urges the Government not to begrudge spending on education which is likely to be well received by the public.' Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers vice-president Wong Kwan-yu said it was understandable the Government was cautious in education spending amid current financial difficulties. 'It is too early to press for a huge amount of additional resources at this stage. Actually, most of the reform measures are not so costly,' he said. Cheung Man-kwong, president of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers' Union and former legislator representing the education sector, said: 'It is time the Government declared a full financial commitment to its determination to carry out the reform, as we have come to the end of the consultation. 'We don't want it to become a 'pay-education' system where poor families cannot afford the better schools and facilities and the gap between students of good and bad standards would widen further.' The reforms are aimed at improving standards in schools and universities. Many academics believe the SAR is falling short of international standards, particularly in language teaching. The idea of overhauling the system was conceived after the handover. The commission is expected to submit its proposals to the Chief Executive in October.