A group of City University professors has taken out newspaper advertisements today against a proposal to split universities into research and teaching-oriented institutions. In an open letter in two Chinese-language newspapers, 56 out of 61 chair professors say that the streaming would stifle free competition and also have a negative labelling effect on students. It is the first collective action by academics since it was reported recently that the University Grants Committee was considering streaming the eight government-funded tertiary institutions into research or teaching entities. The reports said the committee, which is expected to unveil a report on the review of the development of higher education in Hong Kong at the end of this month, will earmark more resources to research universities. The University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University and the University of Science and Technology were said to have been categorised as 'research-oriented institutions'. The remainder, including City University, would become teaching-oriented institutions required to focus on undergraduate courses. 'Dividing local universities into streams without paying regard to their performance does not only run counter to free competition, but also goes against the principle of fairness which has been practised in Hong Kong,' the letter said. 'There is little doubt that, following such a proposal, the so-called 'research-oriented universities' will be perceived as being superior to the 'teaching-oriented universities'.' Such labelling would be unfair to students, staff and alumni. It would undermine students' confidence in studying and graduates' prospects for finding jobs. The campaign was spearheaded by Professor Stephen Cheung Yan-leung, chair professor of finance at City University, and signatories include university president Professor Chang Hsin-kang. A spokesman for City University said the campaign was purely a spontaneous action by its academics. Polytechnic University, which is likely to be categorised as 'teaching-oriented', also voiced opposition to the proposed streaming in January. A report on the proposal will be issued at the end of the month for public consultation.