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Research in Self-Financing Institutions

As the Research Grants Council (RGC) Chairman Professor Roland Chin pointed out, the Chief Executive announced an injection of HK$5 billion into the Research Endowment Fund in last October’s Policy Address. Of this, HK$2 billion would augment the existing HK$18 billion endowment to provide stable research funding for UGC-funded institutions. Of the remaining HK$3 billion, the annual return of the sum, estimated at HK$150 million per year at an annual return rate of 5%, would provide new research funding for self-financing tertiary institutions on a competitive basis.

Professor Chin noted that there are seven tertiary institutions eligible for the funding application at present, including Hong Kong Shue Yan University, The Open University of Hong Kong, Chu Hai College of Higher Education, Hang Seng Management College, Tung Wah College, Caritas Institute of Higher Education and Centennial College.

According to Professor Chin, the research funding for self-financing institutions aims to enhance the diversity and quality of tertiary education in Hong Kong. Currently, academic research in Hong Kong is centered around UGC-funded institutions, while self-financing institutions are disadvantaged by limited funding and the heavy workload of their teaching staff. The new research funding will serve as a stimulus to academic research at self-financing institutions and propel academic research in Hong Kong toward a more inclusive and balanced development.

It is hoped that academics in both the public and the private sectors will be encouraged to keep abreast of advances in their field and translate such knowledge into quality curriculum and teaching for the benefit of students.

To be eligible for the new funding, academics must be employed full-time in their home institution and be engaged in teaching bachelor's degree programs and above. Depending on the content and needs of the proposed projects, the awarded funding can be used for project expenses, purchase of equipment and facilities, participation in international academic conferences and seminars, or released teaching time and hiring of substitute teachers. Apart from funding research projects on a competitive basis, consideration would also be given to institutions’ research capacity building, such as summer institutes and research workshops.






Professor Chin added that there is no concrete timetable for the new research funding scheme at the moment, since it is still in the consultation stage. Meetings with the presidents of eligible institutions are being arranged to consult them on their aspiration and research needs before drafting details of the funding schemes. Professor Chin hopes to submit the proposed schemes to the RGC for approval this coming December and to subsequently launch the schemes for applications. If the process goes as planned, the first round of funding applications should be approved in the summer of 2013.

Global Research Collaboration

In addition, the RGC will continue to promote international and national collaborations in academic research. Currently, the RGC collaborates with 80 to 90 academic institutions in various countries, including France, Germany, UK and the Netherlands and Spain, among others. These joint funding schemes have been vastly popular among local and overseas scholars, attracting large numbers of applicants and intense competition.

This year the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and Research Grants Council (RGC) Joint Research Scheme has increased its funding to HK$21.25 million. This scheme promotes collaboration between researchers in Hong Kong and the Mainland on the basis of complementarity. The current focus areas are information technology, life science, new materials, marine and environmental science, medicine and management science.

Professor Chin further remarks that RGC is considering a possible funding scheme to support research projects conducted by Hong Kong students at overseas universities, and those conducted by international students during their visits to universities in Hong Kong. The scheme would differ from the current exchange students program in that it would not involve the exchanges of students on a one-on-one basis. It would serve to enhance the academic standards and horizon of local research students.