Plans for the forthcoming academic year will be disrupted if the government fails to confirm next year's university funding by mid-January, a university chief has warned. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology president Paul Chu Ching-wu also called for the issue not to be politicised. The comments by Professor Chu, who is also the convenor of the Heads of Universities Committee, came after the Education and Manpower Bureau unexpectedly withdrew its $10.6 billion funding package for the universities at the Legislative Council on Friday. The package would have cut the recurrent grants to the eight higher education institutes by 10 per cent. The institutes were originally scheduled to receive details on next year's funding by the end of the year, Professor Chu said. He said plans for the 2004-05 academic year would be disrupted if the details were released later than the middle of January. 'The earlier we know the better,' he said. 'It would be inconvenient if we leave it too late.' The amount of funding would influence the number of students the universities admitted as well as funding for research projects within the universities, Professor Chu said. He said he would be calling for a meeting of the heads of the eight universities soon to discuss the latest developments. The bureau withdrew the funding proposals last week after the Democratic Alliance for Betterment of Hong Kong changed its mind and opposed the package - just before lawmakers were scheduled to vote on it. 'I hope the withdrawal was not politically motivated. It would be regrettable if political parties use education as a mean to gain votes,' Professor Chu said.