The official taskforce set up by Hong Kong University of Science and Technology to consider the pros and cons of merging with Chinese University of Hong Kong is likely to decide against the proposal. Members of the taskforce will meet tomorrow to finalise their report on the idea that Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung unveiled last month. One taskforce member, Professor Leonard Cheng Kwok-hon, said most felt that there were insufficient grounds for supporting a merger. 'They feel the benefits do not outweigh the disadvantages,' he said. The 18-member taskforce has laid out a list of pros and cons, with the list of 'cons' longer than that of the 'pros'. It is expected to submit a final report next week to the council, which will make the final recommendation. 'It is very unlikely that the report will embrace the merger idea,' Professor Cheng said. Ninety per cent of HKUST students who took part in a referendum earlier also opposed the idea. Student Union chairman Chan Shun-bun, a member of the taskforce, said a prime concern of students was the distance between the institutions. 'It is a nuisance to students to travel to different campuses even on different days. It could also be a loss to students if some professors choose to leave as a result of the merger.' A special discussion Web site created by a group formed by HKUST staff, the Committee of Concerned Faculty, carries overwhelming opposition to the merger. It says top universities such as MIT and California Institute of Technology are small and that mergers between top-tier institutions are rare. Far more common, as in the mainland, are mergers between top tier institutions and lower rank universities or universities with complementary strengths. The Web site also cites numerous potential drawbacks from the proposed merger, such as high costs and a dilution of brand names already established by both universities. A survey conducted earlier by senior management showed that 80 per cent of HKUST staff opposed a merger. 'People have a misconception that mergers automatically work. Indeed they often result in a lot of pain in reorganising and relocation. It could be a success if both institutions have complementary disciplines. That is not the case for HKUST and CUHK,' said a founding member of the group, chemistry professor Richard Haynes. Contrary to optimism shown by Professor Li and Professor Chu - the latter wanting to see a critical mass resulting from consolidation of talents and resources - research by the concerned group showed that many departments at HKUST did not anticipate synergy or complementary strengths with their CUHK counterparts, except in fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology. Professor Li declined to comment on the taskforce's possible veto on the merger. The CUHK taskforce had its first meeting this week and is due to meet once or twice a month over options for integration.