The new system would involve three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary before university Pressure is mounting for the introduction of four-year university degrees by 2009, rather than 2013, as originally proposed by the Education Commission. About 100 academics will discuss the idea of bringing in the four-year structure earlier at a forum on ways forward for tertiary sector tomorrow. An organiser of the event, Kwok Yue-kuen, chairman of the Society of Hong Kong Scholars and an associate professor of mathematics at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said he would present arguments in favour of introducing the new system - involving three years of junior secondary, three years of senior secondary education, and the four-year university - in 2009. 'We cannot wait too long,' he said, adding that 2009 would be the earliest possible date to introduce the new undergraduate format. 'Parents would need to be told about any changes at least three years before, and to get the first batch of students in 2009, Form Fours would have to start in 2006. It would take at least one to two years to figure out the new curriculum. It's now 2003 and I don't think we can accelerate any faster,' he said. The programme should be implemented sooner rather than later, he said, because it would be more streamlined and cost-effective than the present system and would benefit the long-term development of Hong Kong education. 'We need a broad-based, four-year programme and we can't wait 10 years,' he said. City University president Chang Hsin-kang said in an internal staff newsletter this week that the government had 'reached an understanding' to implement the four-year system in 2009. He was optimistic the system would bring in additional resources at a time when the sector faced substantial budget cuts. 'With the launch of a new system, the universities, including CityU, might anticipate supplementary allocations from the government,'' he said. HKUST president Paul Chu Ching-wu said university heads agreed that the four-year system should be introduced as early as possible. He also revealed that government officials were to meet with university heads to discuss the issue soon. But it would require additional government funding to make the switch, he said. Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung told the Legislative Council earlier the change would cost $3.2 billion a year and an initial $11 billion. Chairman of pressure group Education Convergence and principal of Munsang College, Cheung Pak-hong, said bringing in the new system earlier also required an acceleration of the current curriculum and examination reforms. 'It will involve a lot of work, but it is not impossible,'' he said. He called on the government to reveal its plans as soon as possible so schools could prepare. A spokesman for the Examinations and Assessment Authority said it would work closely with the government on setting a new public examination to replace the Hong Kong Certificate of Education and A-Level examinations, in line with the new system. The main concern was that students should have at least two years' notice of any changes in the examination syllabus, the spokesman said. Hui Chin-yim, committee member of the Subsidised Secondary Schools Council, called for a cautious approach on the part of the government. No timetable should be set until full consultation had been held within the school sector, he said. Many questions needed to be asked; for example, on the availability of new textbooks for senior secondary classes by 2006, whether there would be an exit point for students who could not cope academically with the senior secondary curriculum and the training and deployment of senior form teachers. 'Will teachers be made redundant with the abolition of Form Seven? What will happen to the last batch of seventh-formers in 2009? Will they be put in the second year of university?'' he asked. Professor Li's press secretary said the government was still in negotiations with the school and university sectors. It would consult schools on how much advance notice they needed that a new system was to be put in place.