Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung has suggested the Hong Kong Institute of Education (HKIEd) could consider a merger with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. But HKIEd management said they felt 'surprised' at the suggestion and 'disappointed' at a lack of progress on giving the institute a university title. The education chief made the suggestion during a Friday meeting with HKIEd in which the institute sought to be renamed as a university. 'The quest for a university title is a united stance of the institute. We are very disappointed that no substantive progress has been made in the meeting on the timeframe for HKIEd to achieving that objective,' the management said in a statement released last night. Professor Li told the meeting that HKIEd could also consider incorporating the education faculties of other institutions in Hong Kong. He also said the institute should develop a blueprint for its future development which could be further discussed with the University Grants Committee (UGC) and the government. However, the institute dismissed the idea of merger or incorporation as 'not consistent' with its strategic plan for 2006-2012. An Education and Manpower Bureau spokesman said the HKIEd released two 'inconsistent' statements on Friday and yesterday. In a Friday statement, HKIEd's council chairman Thomas Leung Kwok-fai described the meeting as 'open and frank' and said it had been a 'useful dialogue and a positive step towards the retitling of HKIEd'. He said it came as a shock that the HKIEd had suddenly expressed disappointment. Among the eight institutions of higher education funded by UGC, HKIEd is the only one without a university title. Teachers and students said the lack of a university brand name had hampered the institute's fund-raising ability, student recruitment and exchange activities.