There is more than what meets the eye: University preparation for the socio-economic impact requirement in Research Assessment Exercise 2020 in Hong Kong
- There is more than what meets the eye: University preparation for the socio-economic impact requirement in Research Assessment Exercise 2020 in Hong Kong
- Asian Education and Development Studies, 11(4), 702-713, 2022
- Emerald Group Publishing Limited
- Hong Kong
- 1997.7 onwards
- Purpose>This paper aims to examine how Hong Kong universities have responded to a newly included assessment element of socio-economic impact in a government-implemented research evaluation system – Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2020 – within the context of tightening audits and forceful knowledge economy objectives.Design/methodology/approach>This paper reports an institutional case study of the institutional-level response to the RAE 2020 impact requirement at a top-ranked comprehensive university in Hong Kong. A qualitative inquiry approach was adopted. The data sources mainly include university documents related to the RAE 2020 socio-economic impact policy, interview data with nine RAE-eligible academics at the case university, documents on the RAE exercises issued by the University Grants Committee (UGC) and field notes taken during the RAE information sessions.Findings>The institutionalisation process of the RAE socio-economic impact agenda could be considered as establishing an indicator-oriented reward and recognition regime for knowledge transfer and knowledge exchange (KT/KE). Overall, two major institutional strategies were identified in operating the RAE 2020 impact agenda at the case university: (1) launching various policy initiatives: driven by the RAE-defined socio-economic impact; (2) incorporating socio-economic impact into faculty evaluation: premised upon the 16 KT performance indicators laid down by the UGC.Originality/value>This article adds to the theoretical debate on the local reproduction of the global in studies of neoliberalism in higher education by describing a Hong Kong case study, supported by empirical data, of an actual university's responses to the newly included impact requirement in RAE 2020. More specifically, this study reveals that (1) the policy for socio-economic impact might be designed in a neutral or even benevolent manner, but has taken on a neoliberal and managerial dimension in its actual implementation; and (2) the neoliberal discourse underpinning the university's operation can be accounted for and explicated by the local factors embedded in the specific academic environment. Copyright © 2022 Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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