More than 150 Polytechnic University staff whose applications for early retirement have been approved are due to quit in June next year with $60 million in compensation. Deputy president Alexander Tzang Hing-chung said it was a 'painful exercise' to implement the scheme, which had unavoidably hit staff morale. The 156 employees, who include eight academics, are entitled to an average of about 10 months' salary. Their departure will save the university $69 million a year, or more than two per cent of its annual expenditure. Mr Tzang said: 'We hope the Government will not make further cuts to university funding so that we do not need to repeat similar painful exercises.' The Government announced last February that funding for the SAR's eight tertiary institutions would be reduced by $1.9 billion, or four per cent, to $36.2 billion between 2001 and 2004. Polytechnic University, whose funding for the three academic years will be cut by $560 million, put forward the early retirement scheme in July, and 167 applications were lodged when the deadline passed in September. Sixty-seven per cent of the successful applicants were over 45 and 65 per cent had worked at the university for more than 15 years. Mr Tzang reiterated that the scheme was voluntary. But he said: 'We do not rule out the possibility of a few department heads advising their subordinates, whose skills had become outdated, to join the scheme out of goodwill.' He said some staff had been suffering stress since the scheme was announced and the university had provided them with counselling. 'Some colleagues were initially unwilling to join the scheme but they finally did so in the hope that their colleagues could retain their jobs with their departure.' Mr Tzang said the university was reviewing the manpower of its 300-strong estate office - which deals with building maintenance and security - and he expected a final blueprint in March. The Open University has announced a special tuition fee discount for nearly 80 per cent of courses for the coming term. The discounts, which range from three to six per cent, will enable students to save $150 to $600 per course. The university also said it would freeze its tuition fees for another year.