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Evaluation of First-Round Areas of Excellence Proposals

The University Grants Committee (UGC) today (20 August 1999) announced details of its process for evaluating the shortlisted Areas of Excellence proposals, including the composition of the review panels formed to undertake detailed reviews of each proposal.

In December 1998, the UGC received 41 formal proposals for the development of Areas of Excellence in the UGC-funded institutions. In April 1999, the UGC shortlisted 8 of these proposals for further evaluation, and requested further detailed information about them from the institutions concerned.

The UGC also decided that 8 review panels should be formed to undertake detailed reviews of each of the 8 shortlisted proposals. The review panels, all of which have now been formed, comprise overseas UGC and Research Grants Council members, prominent overseas academics in the relevant disciplines, and distinguished local professional and business people in the relevant or related fields.

"The review panels have an important task in assessing the shortlisted proposals," said Dr York Liao, Chairman of the Areas of Excellence Sub-Committee under the UGC. "We consider it essential that the panels should have both overseas academic experts and local business and professional people to provide both local and overseas perspectives on the assessment."

"We are very grateful that prominent members of the international academic community and respected members of the local professional and business community have agreed to participate as panel members in this important venture, " he added.

"In evaluating the shortlisted proposals, the review panels are asked to pay particular attention to the prospects for the proposed Area of Excellence achieving an international standard of excellence and its relevance to the future social or economic development of Hong Kong, as well as whether the proposal builds on the existing strengths and achievements of the institutions concerned," Dr Liao added.

The evaluation process comprises three stages. First, members of the review panels are provided with all the documents relating to the proposal. Each of them will then provide a written assessment on the proposals. Additional advice from independent experts may also be sought. Secondly, the review panels will visit the institutions and meet with the project teams to see on site the research/scholarly environment and activities as they relate to the specific proposals. The panels will also interview the project teams on site to provide for a more in-depth exchange on the proposals. Finally, the panels' assessment will be considered by the AoESC and the UGC. The first stage has been completed. The site visits and interviews will take place between 22 and 23 August. A list of the panel members who will participate in the visits and interviews is at Annex A.

"The site visits and interviews will allow the panel members to see first-hand the relevant activities of the institutions and, through face-to-face meetings with the project teams, to obtain a clearer impression of the strengths of the participants. They are an important part of the evaluation process, " Dr Liao said.

The AoESC and the UGC will meet later in August to consider the review panels' assessments on the 8 shortlisted proposals. Subject to the recommendations made by the review panels, the UGC aims to conclude the first round of the AoE scheme in August and to announce the results shortly afterwards.


On the advice of the UGC, the Government agreed in 1997 to support UGC-funded institutions to build upon their existing strengths with a view to developing them into "Areas of Excellence". The aim is to assist in maintaining and enhancing Hong Kong's pivotal position in the overall development of China and the Pacific Rim. Both the Government and the UGC hope that these Areas of Excellence will be recognised internationally as of equal status to their peers in the same subject area, and expect that they will justify additional investment in state-of-the-art facilities and activities to maintain or advance their position among the world leaders.

UGC Secretariat
Friday, August 20, 1999