Against merging universities

Recently, Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok Cheung promulgated the merger of The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Some praised it as a milestone for building a world-class university in the SAR, while someone else denounced it as a utopian idea. But I don't think it is a very good idea.
There is no denying that there may be some merits of the merger. Wise allocation of resources is the major merit. Nowadays, the Chinese University is competing for the research funds, teaching staff and even students with The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. It seems nonsense that there is such a keen competition between two institutions in one city. What’s more, it is suggested that the merger can bring the multiplier effect: The achievement will be more than double if the two big universities combine.
Be that as it may, the demerits of the proposal should not be overlooked. First, the cultures of the two universities are quite different. The Chinese University is noted for the college system. Compared with its counterpart, The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology does not have this feature. How can the two different universities with different cultures have a sudden and formidable change?
Secondly, as the name says, the Chinese University’s prime medium of instruction is Chinese, which is a key feature among all tertiary institutions in Hong Kong. However, in The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, English is mainly used in teaching and learning. If there is a merger, what will be the language policy in the merged university? If we abandon Chinese, it will be contradictory to the culture of the Chinese University. Some may say each department can choose its own language. But I think it will be in a mess if different faculties have their own policies.
Thirdly and most importantly, students don’t support the merger, especially the students from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. In both universities, students and professors have their own strong sense of belonging and identity. It is not difficult to conceive that the Chinese University guys will believe that they are the elder brothers if combined. What will the students from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology feel? The morale of the staff and students from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology will be seriously affected. All these state clear that the merger is neither a perfect nor an effective way.
To improve and strengthen our tertiary education, there are other various means. Cooperation among different universities can be considered. It will not lead to competition, but it may create a multiplier effect. On the other hand, universities can choose to close some departments with unsatisfactory performance. Each university specializes in its strong disciplines. I believe the independence of universities must be respected. Merger is not a sine qua non.

King Yip
Sai Kung

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