Paul Morris sees no benefit for HK education from tie-up with Chinese University The president of the Hong Kong Institute of Education this week spelt out to staff and students that he will resign if its council decides to merge with another university. Paul Morris issued a statement after a forum with staff and students. 'If the council decides to support a merger, I will offer my resignation because I cannot see the benefits for Hong Kong education or HKIEd staff or students,' it said. The council issued a statement shortly after, confirming it would start discussions on the 'future direction' of the institute in the coming year, and would consult staff and students before making any decisions. The HKIEd has recently been embroiled in controversy over the reappointment of the president. Senior staff have accused the council of being swayed by pressure to oust its president in order to merge the HKIEd with the Chinese University of Hong Kong. There have also been criticisms about the lack of representation of staff and students in the review process. Professor Morris addressed about 160 students and staff in a forum after students were alarmed by his comments first made in last week's Education Post that while he opposed a merger, a federal arrangement could be considered. He told students and staff his strongest preference was for the HKIEd to remain an independent institution with university title. However, he said that the institute would be 'badly damaged' if it was deprived of the title and 'continued to be punished'. In these circumstances federation with another university could be the 'second-best option' in order to move forward and retain the HKIEd's independence and identity. After the forum, he said the institute's future would depend on the composition and stance of the government after the election of the chief executive next year. He denied he had suggested federation in order to secure reappointment, which the council is due to decide on December 1. 'If I want to influence my reappointment, the fastest way would have been to support a merger,' he said. Professor Morris said his reappointment was a secondary issue, compared with the future of the institute. 'What happens to the institute in the future will have to be discussed openly by students and staff and it will require their support before any changes are made.' A federal arrangement was not a step towards merger, but a 'final state', he said. Its success would depend on the legal detail defining the relationship between institutions. The five-member appointment review committee, set up earlier this year and headed by council chairman Thomas Leung Kwok-fai, is due to meet for the first time on Tuesday. It will submit a recommendation to the council on December 1 when the latter will decide whether to reappoint Professor Morris when his five-year term ends in September. Dr Leung and two other non-staff council members on the committee have been gathering views of students and staff. The council issued a statement that the evaluation criteria for the presidency did not include acceptance or agreeing to a merger. It would 'ensure that the [review] process is thorough, fair and vigorous', it said. Victor Au Kin-ho, president of the students' union, said students were satisfied that Professor Morris had confirmed his support for the independence of the HKIEd and its fight to be renamed as a university. 'It's good to know what his plans are,' he said. However, there is dissatisfaction among students and staff that they are barred from the final decision on the president's appointment. Leung Hoi-ting, vice-president of the student union, said students would fight for an amendment to the HKIEd's ordinance that restricts their voting rights. Leung Yan-wing, vice-chairman of the academic staff association, said: 'Some want to vote on the reappointment but their expectations have been killed by the ordinance.' He said the association would meet to discuss options of action to increase staff involvement in the review process. He also called for clarification on the merger issue. 'Staff are dissatisfied with the lack of transparency and involvement in the review process,' he said. A CUHK spokeswoman said the relationship between the university and the HKIEd would continue to be of deep collaboration. Dr Thomas Leung was unavailable for comment.