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Research Questions

  1. What are the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for improvement of the RGC funding processes and structures as perceived by RGC stakeholders (the academic community, universities and institutions, RGC panel members and broader society)?
  2. What can be learnt from comparable international funding bodies to inform improvements to the system?

Hong Kong has a dual public research funding system, consisting of both a block grant and a competitive grant system. The Research Grants Council (RGC), established in 1991 with the objective of building up research capability in Hong Kong, is responsible for the competitive grant system. It is responsible for the distribution of research funding through competitive grants, as well as for advising the Government of Hong Kong, through the University Grants Committee (UGC), on the needs of Hong Kong's higher education institutions in terms of academic research.

The UGC launched a Review of the RGC, to ensure funding is used and managed efficiently and meets the needs of Hong Kong. The review was headed by a Task Force formed under the UGC. RAND Europe was appointed by the UGC to assist the Task Force in the Review of the RGC (Phase I).

We used focus groups, interviews, surveys, an online consultation and documentary analysis to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the RGC funding assessment and allocation process and identify areas for future improvement.

Key Findings

Achievements of RGC grant giving

  • The RGC is Hong Kong's primary research grant funder and has established a positive reputation.
  • There were many positive views articulated about what the RGC and associated funding have achieved since its inception.

Processes of RGC grant allocation and review

  • The overall value of the funding available is a source of concern to all stakeholders.
  • There is a lack of agreement as to whether the current value and duration of awards are correct.
  • Grant metrics are now used by the sector as a measure of success to reward both researchers and universities.

Review of the role of the RGC in strategic research directions

  • The RGC's decision making is devolved to panels and the aims of the RGC are not well understood by the sector.
  • Participants identified a number of areas for future strategic consideration.

Areas for improvement of grant review processe

  • Processes are felt to be overly burdensome and could be streamlined.
  • Many researchers do not think the grant application and review process is transparent, while panel members were much more positive about transparency.
  • The mixed views on the transparency of the process and system could be improved through greater engagement.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the University Grants Committee of Hong Kong (UGC) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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