Joint statement will voice concerns on planned reduction in education funding University chiefs have united against the government's plan to cut university funding substantially, ahead of next week's boycott of classes by students. City University president Chang Hsin-kang said further cuts to the sector could destroy efforts made over the past 20 years to develop higher education in Hong Kong. In a joint statement, to be released this week, the chiefs will express their concerns over the anticipated cut in funding for 2005-2008. Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung has said higher education will bear the brunt of the overall cut in the education budget. Universities are already facing a 10 per cent cut in funding next year. 'Our budget has already been reduced by 10 per cent over the past six years. The quality of education will definitely be affected should there be further cuts in the coming triennium,' Professor Chang said. 'We hope Professor Li can explain to us why there needs to be substantial cuts for universities when the overall education budget is expected to be cut by about 9 per cent over the next five years.' The cut would be a particularly severe blow to City University, which already faces a withdrawal of government funding for its sub-degree programme from next year. Students from City University and Polytechnic University are planning to boycott classes next week in protest at the cuts. The University of Science and Technology Student Union will decide whether to take similar action following a meeting with Financial Secretary Henry Tang Ying-yen tomorrow, according to union president Kelvin Chan Yik. Tsui Lap-chee, vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, said a further budget reduction could put a halt to development projects planned by the university. 'That would make it difficult for us to reach our goal of becoming a leading institution at the international level,' he added. The Professional Teachers' Union has issued a statement supporting the planned strikes by the students. It also expressed anger at the possible cuts and vowed to mobilise teachers, students and parents should university budgets be slashed. 'We will fully support the students' rational act and their spirit to fight for education and justice,' union president and legislator Cheung Man-kwong said. At a meeting yesterday, several Liberal Party members asked the financial secretary to reconsider the amount of the education budget cut. 'Education is a long-term investment,' party member and legislator James Tien Pei-chun said. But Executive Councillor Tsang Yok-sing said after a council meeting that he hoped universities would consider reducing their expenditure. 'Reducing resources will not necessarily affect the quality of education,' he said. In London, Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa urged students to stay calm. 'I am sure we can solve the problem ... education is most important for us as an investment.'