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8 February 2023 - 8 February 2023

1:00PM - 2:00PM

This event will be in-person and online via Zoom. Contact for details about how to take part.

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Part of the School of Education Research Seminar Series.

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School of Education

Speaker : Dr Will Lo

Impact beyond academia has become an essential component of research assessment in Hong Kong. Although there is an abundance of literature in the field of higher education studies that exemplifies how the impact agenda has changed the UK’s higher education system – on which Hong Kong is traditionally modelled – little is known about the implications of this evolution of research assessment in the local context. A key theme that emerges in the UK literature is criticism that the impact agenda has undermined the freedom and autonomy of academics, causing an erosion of integrity and authenticity in academia. This theme essentially corresponds to the public/private dualism emphasised in Anglo-American societies. This dualism however is less relevant to Chinese culture, which tends instead to stress an overlap between public and private.

Therefore, in this seminar, I present a proposed comparative study, which will take this overlap as a counter to the public/private dualism to construct a theoretical framework for comparing how the impact agenda is received in Hong Kong and the UK. This proposed research will consist of two qualitative inquiries designed to explore the significance of the cultural approaches to the public/private distinction in understanding the reception of the impact agenda in the two different contexts, supplemented with a documentary analysis that offers a thorough review of policy transfer in research assessment between Hong Kong and the UK. The first qualitative inquiry will investigate perceptions of the impact agenda among 96 academics from eight case universities in the two jurisdictions. In the second qualitative inquiry, participants from key research funding bodies and research users recruited via the case universities will be interviewed about their expectations for academic research in the two systems; this inquiry will continue until it reaches data saturation. 

I argue that this comparative research will provide a thorough understanding of the evolution of the impact agenda in Hong Kong and the UK. By comparing academics’ perceptions with funders’ and research users’ expectations, the research will offer a deeper understanding of how the impact imperative of academic research is received by key stakeholders in the sector, thereby enriching empirical knowledge of the manifestation of public accountability in the two higher education systems. By incorporating the cultural elements, the research will establish an innovative theoretical approach to the examination of the prevalent impact agenda in higher education.