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Research Assessment Exercise 2014 achieving international excellence

The University Grants Committee (UGC) announced today (January 27) that 12 per cent of the research submissions made by the eight UGC-funded institutions in respect of the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2014 were judged by international experts as "world leading" standard, while 34 per cent attained "international excellence" and the remainder overwhelmingly attained "international standing" or "regional standing".

Noting that nearly half of the submissions attained international excellence or above, the Chairman of the UGC, Mr Edward Cheng, said, "It is a great pleasure to see that the UGC-funded institutions have achieved such encouraging results in their research performance."

A criterion-referenced assessment against agreed quality levels as defined by international standards, the RAE 2014 covered the assessment period of six years from October 2007 to September 2013. About 16 500 research outputs submitted by some 4 400 eligible academic staff, 220 grant submissions and 230 esteem submissions were assessed.

Mr Cheng added, "Teaching and research are the two closely linked core missions of the UGC-funded institutions. Academics acquire leading knowledge through quality research, which facilitates the transmission of knowledge and in turn fosters teaching. On the other hand, the future of Hong Kong hinges on the development of the knowledge economy. To further sharpen Hong Kong's competitiveness, it is necessary to foster closer collaboration between the Government, industry, academia, research sectors and society, which are inextricably linked. I sincerely hope that the Government and various other sectors, in the course of policymaking and promoting development, will take into account the results of the RAE 2014 as one of the considerations and understand Hong Kong's competitive advantages in research, so as to identify areas with development potential in the short, medium and long run."

The RAE 2014 was implemented under the purview of the Research Assessment Exercise Group (RAEG) of the UGC. Thirteen assessment panels were set up by broad disciplines to conduct the assessment, involving 307 panel members, with 214 or 70 per cent being non-local scholars from Australia, Austria, Canada, the Mainland of China, Israel, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom and the United States, to ensure fair assessment according to international standards. All panel members are distinguished scholars with extensive knowledge and expertise in their respective disciplines. They provided perspectives on international research standards.

"All submissions were fairly and thoroughly assessed and judged with the respective panels' collective decisions," Deputy Convenor of the RAEG Professor Benjamin Wah said. "It is particularly encouraging to see that many areas of research activities in Hong Kong have reached world leading standard and international excellence."

Since 1993, the UGC has conducted five RAEs in 1993, 1996, 1999, 2006 and 2014. Using sharpened measures, the RAE 2014 has produced quality profiles of the eight UGC-funded institutions to identify their areas of relative strength and make recommendations for further improvements.

Professor Roland Chin, another Deputy Convenor of the RAEG, said, "The overarching objective of the exercise is to assess the research quality of the institutions and to encourage world-class research. All assessments were based on the merits of the submissions, not about individual staff. The quantity of submissions was not an assessment factor." He added that the 2014 results should not be directly compared with those of the RAE 2006 due to different methodologies.

The results of the individual institutions of the 13 assessment panels will be uploaded to the UGC website: www.ugc.edu.hk/eng/ugc/activity/research/rae/rae2014.html

On the interpretation of the RAE results of each institution, Professor Wah emphasised that due regard should be given to the institutions' different roles, missions, discipline focus and history. "The RAE 2014 is not a ranking exercise. It is not appropriate to make direct comparison of the results across different panels and institutions," he added.

The RAE 2014 results will be used to inform the distribution of part of the Research Portion of the UGC Block Grant to institutions. The actual allocation of funds under the Block Grant (about $17 billion in 2015/16) is determined by institutions internally as they see fit.

Professor Chin said, "I am pleased to have taken part in steering the RAEs in both 2006 and 2014. The RAE results will provide guidance for the institutions' future developments in respect of pursuing research excellence and creating yet more synergy between research, teaching and learning, and knowledge transfer activities. With these results, we hope that the institutions will continue to strive for excellence in their academic and research developments."