Home > UGC Publications > Press Releases > 1999 > UGC's Press Announcement on Evaluation of First-Round Areas of Excellence Proposals (25.3.1999)

Evaluation of First-Round Areas of Excellence Proposals

The University Grants Committee today (25 March 1999) announced that it has shortlisted eight out of the 41 Areas of Excellence proposals from the UGC-funded institutions for further detailed consideration and review. These shortlisted proposals, in alphabetical order of their titles, are:

Participating Institutions Title of proposal
HKU Centre of Genome Research : Cancer, Medicine and Life Sciences
HKUST*, CUHK China Business and Management
CUHK*, HKUST*, HKU Information Technology
HKU Institute of Economic Policy and Business Strategy
HKUST*, PolyU, HKU Microelectronics
HKUST*, CUHK Nanostructured Materials
CUHK Plant and Fungal Biotechnology
CityU*, HKU Wireless Communications

Note: * denotes institution submitting the proposal

To assist in maintaining and enhancing Hong Kong's pivotal position in the overall development of China and the Pacific Rim, the Government, on the advice of the University Grants Committee (UGC), has decided to support UGC-funded institutions to build upon their existing strengths and develop them into "Areas of Excellence". Such Areas of Excellence would be recognised internationally as of equal status to their peers in the same subject area, and justify additional investment in state-of-the-art facilities and activities which would maintain them among the world leaders.

In December 1998, the UGC received 41 formal proposals for the development of Areas of Excellence in the UGC-funded institutions. They were considered by the UGC, advised by its Areas of Excellence Sub-Committee, in January 1999.

Dr York Liao, Chairman of the UGC's Areas of Excellence Sub-Committee said today (25 March 1999), "In considering the 41 formal proposals, we felt that it was essential to maintain the emphasis on the 'excellence' in the Areas of Excellence scheme and accordingly reaffirmed the UGC's earlier decision that in the first round of the scheme, not more than five proposals, and possibly even fewer, would be supported."

"This was to ensure that only obviously outstanding proposals would be selected and the Scheme would make a successful start. We were pleased to note and greatly assured by the outcome of the first round exercise, in that the choices enjoyed wide support from members of the Areas of Excellence Sub-Committee and the main UGC, and a clear distinction could be made," Dr Liao added.

"In shortlisting the proposals, we attached particular importance to the prospects of the proposed Areas of Excellence achieving an international standard of excellence, their relevance to the future social or economic development of Hong Kong and whether they build on existing strengths and achievements of the institutions concerned," Dr Liao added.

In the current triennium (1998-2001), the UGC has about $380 m available in its Central Allocation Vote as the provision for the Areas of Excellence scheme.

Dr Liao explained that the shortlisted proposals would now undergo further evaluation involving external reviews, interviews and possibly site visits. "The UGC considers it necessary to proceed with the selection with due caution to allow sufficient time for the proper evaluation of the proposals," Dr Liao added.

"It is expected that the selection process, which will be based essentially on peer review and involve evaluation of proposals by both international and local experts in the relevant fields, will take several months and the final results of this first round of the Areas of Excellence scheme will therefore only be able to be announced by August 1999," he said.

Institutions were informed of the results of the preliminary assessment on 3 March 1999. Those whose proposals are shortlisted have been invited to provide additional information concerning their proposals by 1 April 1999 for further consideration by the UGC and external reviewers. The UGC Secretariat, in consultation with the Areas of Excellence Sub-Committee, is in the process of setting up review panels and identifying potential external reviewers.

Referring to the 33 proposals not shortlisted this time, Dr Liao said, "We were pleased to note that many of these were also of very high standard and have the potential to develop further. The UGC has therefore suggested that those concerned may wish to consider further strengthening and developing their proposals internally with a view to resubmitting them for consideration in the next round."

"The UGC hopes to initiate a second round of calls for Areas of Excellence proposals later this year," he said.

University Grants Committee Secretariat
March 25, 1999


  1. To advise the UGC on the strategy, in particular on the specific criteria, for selecting potential areas of excellence (AoE) in the UGC-funded sector, which are likely to attain (initially) regional and (eventually) international excellence in teaching, research and other scholarly activities in the 21st century;

  2. By applying the criteria as endorsed by the UGC in (a) above, to assist the UGC in identifying and prioritizing such AoE proposals for funding support by the UGC or otherwise, in the light of available resources, the roles and missions of the UGC-funded institutions, the well-being of higher education in Hong Kong, and the needs of Hong Kong and China; and

  3. To monitor the progress and evaluate the success of AoE initiatives supported with UGC-funds.

Membership of Areas of Excellence Sub-Committee
Chairman: Dr York Liao, JP
Ex-officio Member Dr Alice Lam, JP
Members Prof Sir Colin Dollery
  Prof Albert R George
  Prof Alan D Gilbert
  Prof Charles Kao, CBE
  Prof Lu Yongxiang
  Prof Helen F H Siu
  Prof dr Frans A van Vught
  Prof Wee Chow Hou
  Prof Richard Y C Wong
  Prof Kenneth Young
Co-opted Member Prof Simon S Wong
Secretary Mrs Brenda Fung