University heads had received a pleasant surprise with the withdrawal of DAB support for steep cuts in education funding, a leading academic said yesterday. Speaking on RTHK, Polytechnic University president Poon Chung-kwong said universities had already factored the cuts into their budgets for the coming two years. 'Now, we have a chance to discuss [the proposed cuts] again, it's quite good,' Professor Poon said. Universities were willing to help shoulder their fair share of the government's financial difficulties, but they hoped the accumulated level of cuts to the education sector would not exceed 11 per cent in the next five years. Professor Poon said the heads of the eight universities, staff and students would meet the Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung next month to discuss higher education funding. Professor Li yesterday said people should not confuse the 2004-05 budget with those for 2005 to 2008. 'The Financial Secretary [Henry Tang Ying-yen] hasn't discussed the budget for the 2005 to 2008 academic years with us yet, but the 2004-05 budget has been finalised,' he said. He added that he would continue canvassing support from universities and lawmakers. It would be difficult to make changes as Mr Tang had already drafted his budget. On Friday the education chief was forced to withdraw next year's $10.6 billion funding package for the eight institutes after the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong withdrew its support at the last minute.