An umbrella group of university staff associations is to put forward a proposal on the four-year university that involves cutting the number of secondary school years from seven to five. Chan Chi-wai, vice-chairman of Federation of Hong Kong Higher Education Staff Associations, said they wanted universities to offer a foundation year for students who had completed Form Five and sat the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination (HKCEE). Admissions to degree programmes would be based on students' performance in the foundation year, Dr Chan said. Universities could set their own admission criteria, he added. During the foundation year, students would be taught a broad curriculum including languages and liberal studies. 'Running it will not be very costly as universities already have the hardware and a strong pool of teachers. They may only need to hire more junior teaching staff,' he said. Dr Chan said the proposal would allow secondary schools to implement small classes because they could use the resources originally allocated for Forms Six and Seven to run additional classes from Forms One to Five. He said students should start university education earlier as universities had more resources than secondary schools to boost their language proficiency. They would also be free from the pressure of the Hong Kong Advanced Level Examination. He believed the change could take place as soon as 2005. However, the proposal has drawn criticisms from some educators. Stephen Hui Chin-yim, committee member of Hong Kong Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, said: 'Students who fail to gain admission to the foundation year will not be able to go to other universities because they will only have taken the HKCEE.' And Professor Ng Tai-kai, professor of physics at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said university funding would have to be significantly increased if the proposal was to go ahead.