HKU needs more research funding to build on recent success

City's spending on R&D is behind that of our competitors in the 'knowledge economy' race

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 2014, 4:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 3:45pm

The latest QS World University Rankings put our University of Hong Kong at 26th place last year, which is a very impressive result especially among so many excellent institutions worldwide.

The ranking is based on six elements: academic review (40 per cent), faculty-student ratio (20 per cent), citations per faculty (20 per cent), employer reputation (10 per cent) and global orientation (10 per cent).

HKU did well in academic review and global orientation, but had room for improvement in its faculty-student ratio and citations per faculty.

Both require more resources. The university must retain and recruit high-calibre employees to improve teaching and research, and also needs more funding to enhance research capacity, which is crucial to generating high-quality papers.

Overall, the city's universities have performed well, considering our size and resources. A recent World Bank report shows expenditure on research and development is 0.75 per cent of our gross domestic product. That is less than mainland China (1.84 per cent), Singapore (2.09 per cent), South Korea (3.74 per cent) and Japan (3.26 per cent). Each country in this region is vying to build up a knowledge-based economy. We need to improve on human capital.

Our universities have been building their reputations, even leading the world in some areas. It is time we reinvested our energy and resources to make Hong Kong smarter and better than our regional counterparts.

It's the people that make a great university - the students and dedicated and innovative staff. Last month, I became one of more than 400 academic and senior administrative employees to receive long-service awards for having served at HKU for at least 15 years. Indeed, time flies; we have witnessed changes at the university and within Hong Kong society. HKU has been unfailing in responding to challenges and is free from any intimidation of academic freedom. We are always actively engaging in the exchange of knowledge, with the aim of creating a better community.

The university is fortunate to receive much talent among its undergraduate and postgraduate intake each year. They make teaching and learning enjoyable and satisfying. Exchange students and non-locals inject enthusiasm into campus life, and benefit our postgraduate education and training programmes.

Some have chosen to stay on in Hong Kong after graduation. Others have left us, but not before we had sown the seed for further collaboration, which is essential for the city to continue improving.

We appeal to the government and the private sector to provide much-needed R&D funding. Investing in our young is for the future of our society.

We are thankful for the university, which has created space and a supportive environment for staff members to develop and excel. But we cannot take this for granted. It is our responsibility to uphold standards of excellence.

Our university is pleased to this month welcome a new vice chancellor, Professor Peter Mathieson, from the University of Bristol. We hope he can further enhance our capacity and lead HKU to new heights.

And we remain thankful for the 12 years dedicated service by the former vice chancellor Professor Tsui Lap-chee.

Professor Paul Yip Siu-fai is director of HKU's Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention