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Why Hong Kong must extend research support to non-local students as well

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 5:06pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 February, 2018, 10:49pm

When I first joined City University of Hong Kong as a research student in 2013, my monthly studentship was HK$14,400. Five years later, a UGC-funded research student is, on average, paid HK$17,800 a month.

It is clear that the monthly stipends for research students have failed to catch up with inflation in Hong Kong.

If the government is serious about boosting the competitiveness of the city in the global knowledge economy, it should provide research students in the publicly funded universities with more financial support.

In response to my inquiry, the University Grant Committee (UGC) says that it does not collect information about studentships because it is a matter of institutional autonomy. While the individual universities have the right to determine the exact amounts of studentships, the UGC should monitor the overall trends of financial support across the institutions to ensure that Hong Kong remains competitive in recruiting research students from around the world.

With the injection of HK$3 billion into the Research Endowment Fund announced in the 2017 policy address, the UGC plans to waive the annual tuition fees of HK$42,000 for research students, starting in the 2018/19 academic year.

Regrettably, the tuition fee waivers are only available for local students, excluding their peers from the mainland and foreign countries.

Considering non-local students’ difficulties in adapting to the new environment and paying exorbitant rents for tiny flats, the government’s decision to deny them the tuition fee waiver could hurt their morale and motivation for conducting quality research.

Only through larger investment in research and development can Hong Kong rise to the challenges of the new economy where machines will take away countless low-skilled jobs. Therefore, I urge the government to commit more resources to attracting talented research students and supporting their innovative research activities that machines can hardly emulate.

Simon Wang, Kowloon Tong