Chinese University of Hong Kong's departments of history and anthropology are seeking to merge to maximise their use of resources. But members of both departments maintain the move, which could be the first departmental merger at the university, was not prompted by the looming cut in the government's university funding, though they were hopeful combining resources would allow them to do more with less. Billy So Kee-long, chairman of the history department, said the move would not result in any staff cuts. 'Even if our budget is not cut, we still have to think of ways to make effective use of resources. The whole economic environment in Hong Kong forces everyone to reflect very hard on whether we are doing the best with what we have and if there's room for improvement,' he said. The merger proposal has already been submitted to vice-chancellor Ambrose King Yeo-chee. If approved, they will work out a more concrete plan for discussion among staff and students, to be scrutinised by the senate. The new Department of History and Anthropology could be in place by next September. 'This merger idea is bottom up, not initiated from the top,' said Professor So. CUHK is the only university in the territory with a department in anthropology, offering studies in cultural practices that involve fieldwork and archaeology. The 37 enrollees in its postgraduate programmes are an international mix. Head of the anthropology department Tan Chee-beng conceded: 'With only six academic staff, it is very difficult for us to expand.' A submission by the departments said there was wide recognition overseas for an intellectual linkage between the disciplines. Institutions like Johns Hopkins University offered joint degree programmes in both areas. New courses such as heritage studies and increased internship opportunities might also come as a result of combining resources, said Professor Tan. Students would have more courses to choose from. The history department has 10 academic staff and will be joined by Oxford-based historian David Faure next year. Its emphasis on public and social history often overlaps with anthropology subjects. 'Our students may run into anthropology students doing fieldwork. And they may be using the same textbook on methodology,' Professor So said.