The Hong Kong Institute of Education's staff association yesterday called for the reappointment of the institute's president on the eve of a crucial vote on the issue. In a statement to the institute's governing council - which is due to meet this morning to determine whether to extend Paul Morris' contract when it expires in September - the association expressed 'deepest worries and concerns' about a possible 'management vacuum' should the vote go against him. The association, which has non-voting representatives on the council, previously declined to support or oppose Professor Morris' reappointment, saying staff were divided on the quality of his leadership. However, Leung Yan-wing, the association's vice-president, said Professor Morris ought to stay for the sake of stability. 'There have been a number of high-level departures recently,' Dr Leung said. 'If Professor Morris goes as well then the whole upper leadership of the institute will have changed almost at once. That is not a good thing for any organisation.' The institute recently appointed a new vice-president for administration to replace Norman Ngai Wai-yiu, who left in November. Associate vice-president for learning enhancement and development Lorna Chan Kim-sang retired in September. Academic vice-president Bernard Luk Hung-kay is due to retire in April, although he suggested on Monday that he could be in the running to remain in office. 'The institute simply cannot face such a large upheaval of senior leadership,' Dr Leung said. 'This is an important problem, but we do not know how much weighting the council will give it.' Today's council meeting - the continuation of last month's meeting which adjourned without reaching a decision - is expected to bring to a close a drawn-out reappointment process that has been dogged by controversy and rumours of political interference for months. Professor Morris has received the public backing of the institute's academic board, the student union and a number of senior academics, but sources at the institute have suggested he is unlikely to be reappointed by the mostly government-appointed voting members on the council, due to his outspoken campaign for a university title and vocal opposition to a merger. Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung provoked controversy late last month, when he suggested a merger with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, or for the institute to combine the education faculties of all local tertiary institutions. He also previously suggested a merger with Chinese University of Hong Kong.