Legco members have called for a longer period of public consultation over the future of higher education, which begins next week with the publication of the University Grant Committee's (UGC) review of the sector. The review, launched by the UGC last May and just completed by a working group headed by Lord Sutherland, vice-chancellor of Edinburgh University, will be released on Tuesday. A two-month public consultation will follow. But at a Legislative Council panel meeting this week, legislators said the consultation period was too short. 'The next two months will be the time when teachers are busy preparing for examinations. I think the consultation period should last until after summer,' said Democrat legislator Szeto Wah, who was supported by Frontier member Emily Lau Wai-hing. Cheung Man-kwong, another member of the Legco education panel, said the public should be given sufficient time to think over the future proposals as they could have far-reaching implications for Hong Kong. 'Given the tight secrecy surrounding the report, it might contain some controversial proposals,' he said. The proposals might also clash with those in the report on higher education reform being worked on by a sub-group under the Education Commission, said Mr Cheung. But UGC secretary-general Peter Cheung Po-tak said change was unlikely as the length of the consultation period had already been decided on. The review covers a wide spectrum of areas including governance of universities and the whole higher education sector, definition of higher education in Hong Kong, its funding mechanisms and the UGC's future role. Meanwhile, a group of overseas scholars at City University this week expressed their concern about future changes in a meeting with the Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun. They were given an assurance from Mrs Law, despite previous media reports, that universities would not be categorised into teaching and research institutions. 'She said what the Government wanted was to encourage efficiency, quality teaching and research excellence,' said Yeshayahu Lifshitz, chair professor of materials science at CityU. The group also demanded transparency in the future allocation of funding. The discussions were frank, though Professor Lifshitz said he would feel relieved only after seeing the report next week.