FAQs for Early Career Scheme (ECS)

1. How can I determine if my appointment is a tenure-track equivalent appointment?

2. The ECS states that an applicant must have the title of assistant professor or equivalent. I am tenured but hold the title of research assistant professor. May I apply?

3. I am a new tenure-track assistant professor. I won a GRF award last year. Am I qualified to apply under ECS?

4. How should I count my eligibility period?

5. I had been an associate professor in my previous employment overseas. But I was recruited as a tenure-track assistant professor in my current appointment last year. May I apply?

6. I had been an assistant lecturer for many years in my previous employment. I was appointed as a tenure-track assistant professor in my current appointment last year. May I apply?

7. I will be appointed as an assistant professor in December in the current year. May I apply under the current exercise?

8. ECS involves participation of research student(s) (MPhil/PhD). Can Doctor of Science, Doctor of Education etc be included as research student(s)?

9. Is change of the RPg allowed? If the PI moves to another UGC-funded institution with the funded ECS, is it necessary for the RPg under ECS to move to that UGC-funded institution?

10. What is the major difference in eligibility between the "green applicants" under the GRF and the ECS applicants?

11. I had been a part time assistant professor for three years in my previous employment overseas. I was recruited as a tenure-track assistant professor in my current appointment last year. May I apply under the ECS?

12. If I was appointed as an assistant professor in November four years ago, but was granted a break of service of 18 months due to health or family reasons, may I still apply for ECS noting that my actual service as assistance professor is still less than 3 years?

13. What happens if I am promoted to associate professor after I have submitted a proposal under the ECS?

14. I am not supervising research students now. But I will be allowed to supervise research students if my RGC application is approved. Am I eligible to apply?

15. The ratio of research students to faculty number is very low in my institution. I may not be allocated a research student. Even if I am lucky to have a research student, I may not be allowed to supervise him throughout his study period. Would my project be terminated or rated unsatisfactory under such circumstances?

16. May I submit one proposal to ECS and another proposal on a different topic to GRF in the same funding cycle?

17. May I submit one proposal to ECS and another proposal on a different topic to RGC funding schemes other than GRF in the same funding cycle?

18. I am eligible for both the GRF and ECS. How do I decide whether my proposal should be submitted to the GRF or ECS?

19. May I submit a proposal under the ECS as a Principal Investigator and submit another proposal as a Co-Investigator under other RGC funding schemes in the same funding cycle?

20. What are the expectations for the level of educational activities to be included under the education plan?

21. What should be included in the dissemination plan?

22. What are the thresholds for ECS applications?

23. I am now in my third year of full time academic job as an assistant professor. Can I submit a proposal to conduct a 5-year project?

24. May I request fund to support my educational activities?

25. I do not need additional resources for the training of undergraduate students. Would the education plan still need to be included?

26. Can I list my collaborator as the Co-Investigator and include his / her salary in my budget?

27. Can I apply for relief teacher support?

28. My proposal is of interdisciplinary nature. To which panel should I submit my proposal?

29. I noticed a major problem with my ECS proposal after the submission to the RGC. Can I fix the problem as the deadline has not passed?

30. How will the ECS proposals be evaluated?

31. Will different standards be applied to proposals submitted to GRF and ECS?

32. Will the RGC evaluate the Education Plan and the Dissemination Plan which are not required under the GRF application?

33. When will I be informed of the decision of my ECS proposal?

34. What are the awards for ECS awardees?

35. What are the reporting requirements?

36. What happens if I leave the academic appointment?

37. Can the institutions seek the RGC's approval to change Principal Investigators?

 

 

Eligibility

1.   How can I determine if my appointment is a tenure-track equivalent appointment?

Institutions are responsible for interpreting whether an applicant is at the tenure-track, assistant professor or career equivalent level with reference to the established ranks in their respective institutions.  You should clarify your status with your institution.

2.  The ECS states that an applicant must have the title of assistant professor or equivalent.  I am tenured but hold the title of research assistant professor.  May I apply?

The ECS is intended for supporting tenure-track junior faculty members who are involved in teaching and research duties, committed in their careers and strongly supported by their institutions.  Institutions are responsible for interpreting whether an applicant is at the tenure-track, assistant professor or career equivalent level with reference to the established ranks in their respective institutions.  You should clarify your status with your institution.

3.   I am a new tenure-track assistant professor.  I won a GRF award last year.  Am I qualified to apply under ECS?

Yes.  As long as you fulfill other eligibility requirements, holders of projects approved under the UGC / RGC funding schemes are eligible to apply for the ECS.  However, awardees of the ECS are not allowed to compete in ECS again but those who failed will be allowed to re-submit applications, which could be completely new applications or the failed applications, within the eligible period.

4. How should I count my eligibility period?

Applicants whose appointment in the first full time academic job as an assistant professor or career equivalent in any local or overseas university took effect on or after three years preceding the deadline of submission are eligible for applying under the ECS. Applicants should refer to the application form (ECS1) on the respective dates for counting the first year, the second year or the third year of employment.

5.  I had been an associate professor in my previous employment overseas.  But I was recruited as a tenure-track assistant professor in my current appointment last year.  May I apply?

Your institution has to check how long you have been working as an assistant / associate professor in your previous employment and how long you have been working as assistant professor in the current institution.  If the aggregate period of your previous and current employment was more than three years, then you are an experienced academic and will not be eligible for applying under the ECS.  If the aggregate period of employment was less than three years and your previous employment was your first full time academic job, then you are still within the 3-year eligibility period.  You will be qualified under the ECS.  We rely on the institutions to verify your employment history.  The institutions are required to confirm that the applicants fully meet the eligibility criteria in the application forms.

6.   I had been an assistant lecturer for many years in my previous employment.  I was appointed as a tenure-track assistant professor in my current appointment last year.  May I apply?

Institutions have the discretion to determine whether a specific rank (it could be assistant lecturer, teaching assistant, instructor and postdoc etc.) is lower than the assistant professor rank according to the established ranks in their respective institutions.  If the previous employment is considered lower than the assistant professor rank, then the employment would not be counted towards the 3-year eligibility period.  If the previous employment is considered equivalent to the assistant professor rank, then the aggregate period of your previous and current employment will be counted towards the 3-year eligibility period.

7.  I will be appointed as an assistant professor in December in the current year.  May I apply under the current exercise?

For new staff members who will be appointed only after the submission deadline, they will be eligible provided that they will formally enter into contracts of service with the institutions on or before the submission deadline and their new appointments will take effect on or before 1 May in the following year.

8.  ECS involves participation of research student(s) (MPhil/PhD).  Can Doctor of Science, Doctor of Education etc be included as research student(s)?

As long as there is a research thesis requirement for the Doctoral programme, the student can be regarded as a research student.  It is up to the institutions to determine whether students in postgraduate programmes should be classified as research students based on the proportion of research elements in their programmes.  But in general, if the programme has a substantial research thesis requirement, the student of the programme could be regarded as research student.

9.   Is change of the RPg allowed? If the PI moves to another UGC-funded institution with the funded ECS, is it necessary for the RPg under ECS to move to that UGC-funded institution?

In order to fulfill the supervision requirement, the PIs under the ECS are not required to supervise research students for the whole study period.  If a PI has already fulfilled the supervision requirement before his move to another institution, no special arrangement for the student is required.  Under any circumstances, if a PI moves to another institution, whether the RPg should move with the PI should be a mutual agreement between the PI and the student.  There is no requirement from the RGC on the student to move with the PI to another institution.

10.  What is the major difference in eligibility between the “green applicants” under the GRF and the ECS applicants?

Under the GRF, the green applicants are those who are within two years of full time paid appointment to their first substantive position equivalent to Staff Grade A (professor) to Staff Grade I (assistant lecturer) in any local or overseas university at the time of the submission deadline.  In other words, the green applicants in Staff Grade A to C are senior academics and they could be experienced researchers before they join the UGC-funded institutions.  Under the ECS, all eligible applicants are tenure-track new junior faculty members at assistant professor or career equivalent level who have three or less than three years’ experience in the academia.  The institutions have to confirm that the ECS applicants will be permitted to be the primary supervisor of research students during the project period.

11.  I had been a part time assistant professor for three years in my previous employment overseas.  I was recruited as a tenure-track assistant professor in my current appointment last year.  May I apply under the ECS?

It is difficult to define how many years of “part-time employment” will be equivalent to one year of “full-time employment”.  As the ECS is targeted to nurture outstanding new junior academics, the eligible applicants should not be too “experienced” so as to ensure fairness among all competitors.  “Part-time employment” should normally not be counted unless there is evidence to prove that such employment has substantial research and educational responsibilities.  The institutions may exercise discretion in interpreting whether and how the period of “part-time employment” will be counted within the 3-year eligibility period.  

12.       If I was appointed as an assistant professor in November four years ago, but was granted a break of service of 18 months due to health or family reasons, may I still apply for ECS noting that my actual service as assistance professor is still less than 3 years?

The RGC is prepared to consider cases of exceptional circumstances such as career break due to family or health reasons.  The institutions should seek the RGC’s special approval for such cases before submitting the applications.

13. What happens if I am promoted to associate professor after I have submitted a proposal under the ECS?

As long as you remain in a tenure-track assistant professor (or equivalent) position until the deadline of submission, you will be eligible for ECS.  However, if your appointment changes to associate professor on or before the deadline of submission, you will not be eligible for ECS.  You should not submit a proposal under the ECS if you anticipate that your title will change to associate professor on or before the deadline of submission.

14.  I am not supervising research students now.  But I will be allowed to supervise research students if my RGC application is approved.  Am I eligible to apply?

Yes.  As long as your institution confirms in the application form that you will be permitted to be the primary supervisor of research students (MPhil / PhD) during the project period, you will be eligible for applying.

15.  The ratio of research students to faculty number is very low in my institution.  I may not be allocated a research student.  Even if I am lucky to have a research student, I may not be allowed to supervise him throughout his study period.  Would my project be terminated or rated unsatisfactory under such circumstances?

You are not required to supervise the whole study period of the research student in order to fulfill the supervision requirement.  As your institution has confirmed in the application form that you will be permitted to be the primary supervisor of research students (MPhil / PhD) during the project period for at least one semester, the RGC trusts that the institution can arrange some supervision duties for the Principal Investigator during the project period which may last from 3 to 5 years.   

Proposal Preparation

16.  May I submit one proposal to ECS and another proposal on a different topic to GRF in the same funding cycle?

No.  Eligible applicants under ECS may choose to submit their proposals under the ECS or the GRF but not both in each funding cycle.  The awardees of ECS cannot compete in the scheme again but those who failed will be allowed to re-submit their applications within the eligible period.

17.  May I submit one proposal to ECS and another proposal on a different topic to RGC funding schemes other than GRF in the same funding cycle?

Yes, only if the research is substantially different.  Applicants should not seek to fund substantially similar proposals under different funding schemes.

18.  I am eligible for both the GRF and ECS.  How do I decide whether my proposal should be submitted to the GRF or ECS?

Eligible applicants may choose to submit their research proposals under the GRF or ECS but not both in each funding cycle.  Separated budgets will be reserved for the GRF and ECS.  The panels will evaluate the applications submitted under the GRF and ECS separately.  Under the ECS, the junior academics will compete only among themselves but not with the experienced applicants.  New junior academics falling under the eligibility criteria for the ECS are therefore encouraged to compete in the ECS.

19.  May I submit a proposal under the ECS as a Principal Investigator and submit another proposal as a Co-Investigator under other RGC funding schemes in the same funding cycle?

Yes, only if the research is substantially different.  Applicants should not seek to fund substantially similar proposals under different funding schemes.

20.  What are the expectations for the level of educational activities to be included under the education plan?

The intent of the RGC is to make it possible for the Principal Investigator to leverage his / her research in an educational context and to strengthen the teaching-research integration.  As there may be different expectations within different disciplines, a wide range of education activities may be appropriate.  A maximum amount of $100,000 will be provided to the awardees for undertaking educational activities including the training of undergraduate students at a monthly rate of $2,500 per undergraduate student helper.  We do not expect the Principal Investigators to undertake intensive educational activities that will lead to an unreasonable workload.

21.  What should be included in the dissemination plan?

You may mention the outcomes of your research and how you will manage them.  How will you archive your data?  Will you give others access to the data and other outputs produced in your research while preserving confidentiality, security, intellectual property and other rights?  Your plan should be appropriate and acceptable in your specific area of research.

Budget Preparation

22.  What are the thresholds for ECS applications?

The thresholds are $150,000 for projects in the fields of Biology & Medicine, Engineering and Physical Sciences, and $100,000 for projects in the fields of Business Studies and Humanities & Social Sciences.  There are no upper limits, but projects costing over $1 million will need to be well justified and supported.

23.  I am now in my third year of full time academic job as an assistant professor.  Can I submit a proposal to conduct a 5-year project?

No.  A maximum of 5-year project duration is allowed for applicants in their first year of full time academic job, a 4-year duration for applicants in the second year and a 3-year duration for applicants in their third year, if the proposed duration is deemed appropriate and necessary by the RGC.
 
24.  May I request fund to support my educational activities?

On top of the funding for undertaking independent research, a maximum amount of $100,000 will be provided to the awardees for undertaking educational activities including the training of undergraduate students at a monthly rate of $2,500 per undergraduate student helper.  You may budget for materials, stipends, travels etc. and other costs required for supporting your proposed educational activities under Section 13 of the application form.

25.  I do not need additional resources for the training of undergraduate students.  Would the education plan still need to be included?

Yes, you have to provide a proposal of educational activities even if you don’t need additional resources for the research training of undergraduate students.  The activities could be in any form that will promote teaching-research integration and are not restricted only to the employment of undergraduate student helpers in your research project.

26.  Can I list my collaborator as the Co-Investigator and include his / her salary in my budget?

No.  You should not list any collaborator as the Co-Investigator.  You may pay someone for the materials or services procured in conducting your research as long as the procurement of that materials or services is permissible under the RGC and the procedures in compliance with the institutional policy.

27.  Can I apply for relief teacher support?

There is a special funding template for applicants submitted under the Humanities & Social Sciences (HSS) Panel to seek funding support for relief teachers so as to free up the HSS Principal Investigators’ time for research and writing.  The evaluation criteria are the same as the criteria for other ECS applications, with academic merit being the primary consideration.  Institutions are required to confirm their full support for these applications and their agreement to release the Principal Investigators upon the RGC’s approval. 

Proposal Submission

28.  My proposal is of interdisciplinary nature.  To which panel should I submit my proposal?

An applicant is allowed to select the secondary field area / code from an assessment panel which is different from that of the primary field area / code.  Interdisciplinary proposals will be evaluated jointly by experts from different panels.  The RGC reserves the authority to decide whether an application is interdisciplinary or not.  If the RGC decided that it is not an interdisciplinary application, the panel overseeing the primary field area / code will normally do the evaluation of the application.

29.  I noticed a major problem with my ECS proposal after the submission to the RGC.  Can I fix the problem as the deadline has not passed?

Yes, if you see a problem before the deadline, you can make the necessary amendments through the ECS System.  If the deadline has passed and you discover the problem, then you have to seek the RGC’s advice on whether approval will be given to update your proposal.  Although all applicants are requested to provide update on the proposals by 30 April in the following year, the updates are confined to changes including the eligibility of the Principal Investigators, declaration of similar / related research work on which working papers, conference papers and journal papers etc. have recently been published, declaration of relationship with nominated reviewers, any significant change of scope, content, personnel, budget etc.  Applicants should not use the opportunity to hand in a substantially changed proposal.  Applicants should thoroughly review their proposals before they are submitted.

Evaluation Criteria for ECS

30.  How will the ECS proposals be evaluated?

Peer review mechanism will be adopted and academic quality of the proposals will remain the overriding evaluation criterion.  A special session will be organized in each panel meeting to consider exclusively the applications for the ECS to ensure that the junior academics will compete only among themselves but not with other GRF applicants.

31.  Will different standards be applied to proposals submitted to GRF and ECS?

Both the GRF and ECS will adopt the peer review mechanism and academic quality of the proposals will remain the overriding evaluation criterion.  The difference is that under the ECS, the junior academics will compete among themselves for the specific budget reserved for the scheme.  They need not compete with the experienced academics.

32.  Will the RGC evaluate the Education Plan and the Dissemination Plan which are not required under the GRF application?

Academic quality of the proposals is the main evaluation criterion. Only those applicants meeting the funding threshold in the research component will be considered for the grants for educational activities. Education plans will be rated "Satisfactory" or "Unsatisfactory". Proposed education plans with "Unsatisfactory" rating will not receive the education grant. Reviewers will be asked to note the Dissemination Plan as it may be relevant in considering the contribution of the proposal to academic / professional development.

Announcement of Results

33.  When will I be informed of the decision of my ECS proposal?

Results of the ECS will usually be announced in June in the following year through your institution.

34.  What are the awards for ECS awardees?

Two levels of award are provided: (i) Early Career Grants - funding will be provided to undertake independent research work and an additional amount of about $50,000 per project will be provided to applicants whose Education Plans are rated "Satisfactory" for conducting educational activities including the training of undergraduate students; and (ii) Early Career Awards - in addition to the funding for research, an amount of about $100,000 per project will be provided to applicants whose Education Plans are rated "Satisfactory" for conducting educational activities including the training of undergraduate students. An honorary title will also be provided to recognize the outstanding awardees. A sharing session in the form of a workshop will be arranged for the awardees to share their research and education plans with their peers.

Monitoring of Approved Projects

35. What are the reporting requirements?

In addition to meeting all the requirements for progress and completion reports that apply to GRF projects, ECS award holders are required to report the progress of the educational activities such as the results of the undergraduate students’ participation in the research projects in the progress and completion reports.

36.  What happens if I leave the academic appointment?

The ECS project will be terminated if you transfer to a non-tenure track position, a non-academic appointment or any appointment outside the UGC-funded institutions.

37.  Can the institutions seek the RGC’s approval to change Principal Investigators?

Change of Principal Investigator during the project period will normally not be approved.  Institutions should seek the RGC’s advice when such case arises.  The RGC may consider if there are very exceptional circumstances.