The abandonment of a merger between two of Britain's prestigious universities serves as a timely warning to amalgamation plans in Hong Kong, local academics opposing the proposals said yesterday. In a joint statement released on Monday, University College London (UCL) and Imperial College said they had concluded that the interests of the two institutions were not best served by a formal merger following an intense period of deliberation. The news came after an overwhelming majority of students at the University of Science and Technology (HKUST) voted against a merger with the Chinese University in a referendum which ended last Saturday. Of the 2,000 students who voted, 1,707 opposed the merger, 207 supported the move, and 86 abstained. More than 80 per cent of academics at HKUST also opposed the merger, according to a poll conducted by its senior management two weeks ago. Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung said last month he wanted a merger between the two as early as 2005. The merger plan between UCL and Imperial College also met strong opposition from academics at the two institutions. UCL provost Sir Derek Roberts said the merger talks were called off to prevent further damaging rows among academics. Francis Lui Ting-ming, spokesman for a group of HKUST academics opposed to the merger, said the halting of merger talks between the two universities showed that any amalgamation was not feasible without the support of staff. A taskforce, which was appointed by the HKUST president, Professor Paul Chu Ching-wu, is scheduled to make its recommendations on a merger at the end of the month.