Volume 15 Issue 3 - September 3, 2010 PDF
Taiwan-UK Research Collaboration Forum and Higher Education Funding in the UK:
Visit by Taiwan Top Universities Delegation
Professor and Dean
Department of Electrical Engineering
College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
National Cheng Kung University
Tainan, Taiwan
[July 13 -21, 2010]
This article first appeared in EECS NCKU
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Hosting Delegations:
(A) Research Council UK (Swindon) – July 13
  1. Ms. Sarah Verth, Policy Manager, International, RCUK (sarah.verth@rcuk.ac.uk, www.rcuk.ac.uk)
  2. Mr. Tim Willis, Head of International Relations Unit, Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (tim.willis@bbsrc.ac.uk)
  3. Ms. Pippa Craggs, International Policy Manager, Arts and Humanity Research Council (p.craggs@ahrc.ac.uk)
  4. Dr. Peter Fletcher, Assistant Director, International and Strategic Partnerships, Science and Technology Facilities Council (peter.fletcher@stfc.ac.uk)

(B) Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE at Universities UK Office, London) – July 15
  1. Cliff Hancock, International Relationships Manager of HEFCE

(C) The Royal Society (at UUK Office) – July 15
  1. Phil Hurst, Publications Department, Royal Society
  2. Dr. Hans Hagen, Senior Manager, Grants, the Royal Society (hans.hagen@royalsociety.org )

(D) Dinner hosted by Universities UK, Prince’s Room at the British Medical Association, Tavistock Square, London – July 20
  1. Dr. Nicola Dandridge – Chief Executive of Universities UK (nicola.dandridge@universitiesuk.ac.uk)
  2. Special Guests:
    (i) Steve O'Leary, Director of International Services Business, UK Trade & Investment (steve.oleary@ukti.gsi.gov.uk)
    (ii) Christine Skinner, Account Director of Programmes and Projects, British Council (christine.skinner@britishcouncil.org)
    (iii) Christine Bateman, Senior Advisor PMI & Education Marketing, British Council

(E) UK-Taiwan Research Collaboration Forum (UUK, London), The Prince’s Room
at British Medical Association, London – July 21 (A partial list of participants, with whom I exchanged business cards.)
  1. Prof Steve Smith, President, Universities UK (ceooffice@universitiesuk.ac.uk)
  2. Mr. Chris Hale, Deputy Director of Policy, Universities UK (chris.hale@universitiesuk.ac.uk)
  3. Ms. Elizabeth Farnell, Communications Officer, UK HE International Unit (elizabeth.farnell@international.ac.uk)
  4. Ms. Callista Punch, Manager/Policy Advisor, UK HE Europe Unit and International Unit (callista.punch@europeunit.ac.uk)
  5. Ms. Elizabeth Farnell, Communications Officer, UK HE International Unit (elizabeth.farnell@international.ac.uk)
  6. Mr. Christian Yeomans Policy Analysis & Public Affairs Officer, UK HE Europe Unit (christian.yeomans@europeunit.ac.uk)
  7. Mr. Ching-An Chuang, Assistant Director, Taipei Representative Office in the United Kingdom Science and Technology Division (stdtro@btconnect.com)
  8. Mr. Hsin-Yuan Lai, Director Programme, British Council in Taipei (hsinyuan.lai@britishcouncil.org.tw)
  9. Ms. Dawn Chen, Assistant Director Education Promotion, British Council in Taipei (dawn.chen@britishcouncil.org.tw)
  10. Dr. Julia Brown, Director of Business & Marketing, Life and Health Sciences, Aston University (j.y.brown@aston.ac.uk)
  11. Professor Jeremy P. Bradshaw, Director of Postgraduates and International Affairs, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, The University of Edinburgh (j.bradshaw@ed.ac.uk , www.ed.ac.uk/.../home )
  12. Professor David P. Hornby, Head of Department of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, The University of Sheffield (d.hornby@sheffield.ac.uk)
  13. Professor Stephen Williamson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research & Innovation) University of Surrey (steve.williamson@surrey.ac.uk)
  14. Professor Mike Holmes, Head of the Graduate School, Faculty of Science and Technology, University of Central Lancashire (mcholmes@uclan.ac.uk)
  15. Professor Dinos Arcoumanis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and International), City University London (c.arcoumanis@city.ac.uk, www.city.ac.uk )
  16. Ms. Victoria Shaw, Senior International Liaison Officer, University of Sussex (v.a.shaw@sussex.ac.uk)
  17. Professor Roy W. Chantrell of Condensed Matter Physics, The University of York (rc502@york.ac.uk)
  18. Professor Dougla Tallack, Professor of American Studies, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of College of Arts, Humanities and Law, University of Leicester (prof.d.tallack@le.ac.uk)
  19. Professor Andrew Atherton, Pro Vice Chancellor, University of Lincoln (aatherton@lincoln.ac.uk)
  20. Dr. Brendan Barker, Head of International Development, University of Dundee (b.g.barker@dundee.ac.uk)
  21. Professor Alan Harvey, Director, Strathclyde Institute for Drug Research, University of Strathclyde (sidr@strath.ac.uk)
  22. Professor Chris Marlin, Pro-Vice-Chancellor International, Sussex University (chris.marlin@sussex.ac.uk)
  23. Professor Carsten Maple, Professor of Applicable Computing, Head of Computer Science and Technology, Faculty of Creative Arts, Technologies and Science, University of Bedfordshire (carsten.maple@beds.ac.uk)
  24. Professor Nigel South, Pro-Vice Chancellor (Academic and Regional Development), University of Essex (south@essex.ac.uk)
  25. Professor Sue Kilcoyne, Associate Dean for Research & Innovation, Faculty of Science, Engineering & Environment, The University of Salford (s.h.kilcoyne@salford.ac.uk)
  26. Dr. I-Ling Kuo, Senior Lecture of Tourism Management, London Metropolitan Business School (i.kuo@londonmet.ac.uk)
  27. Dr. Linton Winder, Research & Knowledge Transfer Manager, University of Exeter (l.winder@exeter.ac.uk)
  28. Professor Zheng-Xiao Guo, Professor of Materials Chemistry, Pro-Provost (China, Hong Kong and Macau), FCO/BIS Focal Point in Nano & Materials Science (UK-China), University College London (z.x.guo@ucl.ac.uk, www.ucl.ac.uk/global/china)

Taiwan Delegation:
  1. Prof. Si-Chen Lee, President of NTU (sclee@cc.ee.ntu.edu.tw)
  2. Prof. Ching-Ray Chang, Director General, Department of International Cooperation, National Science Council, Taiwan (crchang@nsc.gov.tw)
  3. Ms. Cheng-Tung Tao, Program Director, Department of International Cooperation, NSC (cttao@nsc.gov.tw)
  4. Prof. Ji-Wang Chern, Dean of R&D, NTU (jwchern@ntu.edu.tw)
  5. Prof. Chao-Tsen Chen, Group Leader of Strategic Planning, Office of R&D, NTU (chenct@ntu.edu.tw)
  6. Prof. Yonhua Tzeng, Dean of College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, National Cheng Kung University (tzengyo@mail.ncku.edu.tw, tzengyo@gmail.com)
  7. Prof. Yeng-Horng Perng, Vice President, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (vpresident@mail.ntust.edu.tw)
  8. Prof. Chen-Yi Lee, Dean of R&D, NCTU (cylee@faculty.nctu.edu.tw)
  9. Prof. Tsun-Yee Chiu, Dean of R&D, National Chang Gung University (dtychiu@mail.cgu.edu.tw)
  10. Prof. Yen-Hsyang Chu, Dean of R&D, NCU (yhchu@jupiter.ss.ncu.edu.tw)
  11. Prof. Chuan-Mu Chen, Dean of R&D, NCHU (chchen1@dragon.nchu.edu.tw)

Internationalization is one of main themes for developing global top universities in Taiwan.  Towards this common goal, a delegation of R&D leaders from top universities in Taiwan was led by President Lee of National Taiwan University to visit founding agencies (Research Councils UK and Higher Education Founding Council for England), Royal Society, Universities UK, and seven universities in UK: University of Bath, King’s College London, Imperial College London, University College London, University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh, and University of Southampton.  Please refer to separate reports for the visit of each of seven universities.

The missions of this visit are multifaceted.  Detailed understanding of strengths, strategies and funding mechanisms for higher education in the UK is essential to success promotion of Taiwan-UK collaboration.  Identifying current and future project coordinators for the 7th European Union Framework Program and providing assistance in matching researchers in Taiwan and UK for such projects is one of the most effective ways for the participation of Taiwan scholars in the EU NCP projects.  NSC’s Dragon Gate Project wishes to select top universities for sponsoring faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and doctoral students in Taiwan to spend one to two years in conducting research hand-in-hand with renowned scientists in the UK.  The delegation makes an effort to visit with enthusiastic and friendly top university administrators, funding officers, and influential scholars in the UK to help provide researchers in Taiwan with channels of effective communication for further pursuit of collaborative research and education.   By the appointment of President Michael Lai of NCKU, I enjoyed the honor of representing NCKU as a member of the Taiwan delegation and visited the higher education institutions and organizations in the UK.

Itinerary of Taiwan delegation in the UK.
The highest governmental authority for the higher education in the UK is the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).  Funding for higher education in the UK follows a “dual support system” which is similar to what we have in Taiwan. Research Councils UK fund individual projects and part of postgraduate students while Higher Education Funding Councils fund research infrastructure and salaries, etc.  Unlike NSC in Taiwan, there are seven independently operated Research Councils in the UK, collectively known as RCUK.  RCUK manages about 21% of the total higher education research funds in UK.  They are non-governmental public bodies for each of the following disciplines: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Medical Research Council MRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The non-governmental nature of the RCUK ensures the bottom-up process in academic freedom and the pursuit of creative research by scholars in the UK.

Funding decision follows a bottom up process. This made it difficult for RCUK to set aside money for funding international collaboration with specific countries like Taiwan. Nevertheless, according statistics, about 50% of publications by UK researchers involved foreign co-authors.  UK publications with foreign authors resulted in impact of, on average, 50% higher than those without foreign co-authors.

Headquarters of Research Councils UK.
NSC has previously signed MOUs with BBSRC, EPSRC, and AHRC.  During his introduction of BBSRC, Dr. Tim Willis emphasized that besides universities, BBSRC also had six world class Research Institutes where researchers in Taiwan can find excellent collaborators. These Institutes are (i) Institute of Food Research; (ii) Institute for Animal Health; (iii) Rothamsted Research – on sustainable plant-based agriculture and the environment; (iv) John Innes Center – Research and training in plants and microbial science (world number one in citations); (v) Babraham Institute – supporting biomedical, biotechnological and pharmaceutical sector; and (vi) The Genome Analysis Centre – Bioinformatics.

When the Dragon Gate project was introduced by Director General Chang of NSC, our hosts were a little surprised why we would send our top talents to research labs of UK instead of keeping them for Taiwan’s own needs.  We were also informed that the Dragon Gate project could be easily implemented because Brazil had already had an agreement with the UK to send 40 doctoral students for research in the UK.  Apparently, outstanding researchers are welcome by UK research institutes and we should explore all opportunities to send our motivated faculty, researchers, and doctoral students to the best research institutes to work with top scientists and scholars in the UK.  It is our wish that they will return to Taiwan after one or two years with new knowledge and skills as well as culture of higher education relevant to the well demonstrated high-quality and productive research in the UK.

Apparently, the importance and benefits of international collaboration is well recognized and implemented by UK researchers.  On the Taiwan side, MOUs are required in Taiwan in order for government to set aside reserved funds for promoting collaborative research with specific countries.  According officers of RCUK, they do not have spare funds to set aside for sponsoring collaborative research projects with a specific country.  International collaboration is highly encouraged in the UK.  However, funding of international collaboration is totally merits based and usually is attached as part of an awarded research grant selected based on peer review.  My suggestion for NSC, Taiwan and Research Councils UK to sign MOUs even without reserved funds on the UK side should remove the final technical barrier against promoting collaborative research projects among Taiwan and UK researchers.

Higher Education Funding Councils for England (HEFCE), Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC), Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW), and Northern Ireland Higher Education Funding Council (NIHEFC) are four Councils which provide the majority of funds for higher education in the UK.  Medical and dental schools receive fund allocation from HEFC for teaching and research and National Health Service (NHS) for hospital and clinical facilities.

The Total sources of research income of £5,484M in UK (from Higher Education Funding Council for England, EFCE 2009) include, in the decreasing order by money amount, the following: (i) HE funding bodies £1,762M; (ii) Research Councils £1,358M; (iii) UK charities through open competitive processes £708M; (iv) UK central government/local health and hospital authorities £639M; (v) Other grants and contracts £603M; (vi) UK industry £296M; and (vii) UK charities (other) £118M.

The funding allocation of £7,476M by HEFCE in 2008-2009 academic year includes, in the decreasing order by money amount : (i) Teaching £4,632M; (ii) Research £1,460M; (iii) Earmarked capital funding £902M; (iv) Special funding £337M; (v) Business and community engagement (Higher Education Innovation Fund) £120M; and (vi) Additional funding for very high cost and vulnerable science subjects £25M.

Besides funds for basic operation based on the number of students, block research funds for flexible uses by universities is provided by HEFCE based on weighted merits in different subjects.  The weighting factor for every research active teacher and researcher based on their quality of evaluation by an independent research assessment exercise is multiplied with the weighting factor for the subject of the teacher and researchers to become the individual weighted teacher or researcher.  The total weighted number of teachers and researchers of a university is based on to receive the merits based block fund.  The subject based weighting factors include (i) High-cost laboratory and clinical subjects (x1.6); (ii) Intermediate cost subjects (x1.3); and (iii) Others (x1.0).

The research assessment exercise weighting factors include (i) Category 4: World leading (weighting factor: x7) (ii) Category 3: Internationally excellent (x3); (iii) Category 2: International standard (x1); (iv) Category 2: National standard (x0); and (v) Category 1: Below National standard (x0).  The fund distribution is, therefore, highly non-uniform.  Top few universities conducting highest quality research receive the majority of the block funds.  Those universities without high performance research active researchers receive nothing from this distribution.  This is, to some extent, similar to the MOE’s “Top University Project” in Taiwan with a much larger differential funding levels between the best university and the average universities.

Funded in 1660, the Royal Society is the oldest independent scientific academy which celebrates its 350th anniversary in 2010. The Society’s work is supported by 1400 Fellows and Foreign Members.  Each year 44 new Fellows are elected.  Royal Society invests £43M received from Government (Parliamentary Grant in Aid) and £8M from private sources in FY 08/09 through 19 grant making schemes.  Around 1500 awards were made in FY08/09 including 150 fellowships.

Introduction of Royal Society by Dr. Hans Hagen.
The Society offers various grants including the Mobility Grants for bilateral projects with cost-share agreement with NSC, Taiwan to offer 5 co-funded awards per year.  It also offers Early Career Fellowship, known as Newton International Fellowships, to attract the best first time post-doctoral researchers to the UK for 2 years. Further information about funding of the Society can be found at www.royalsociety.org/funding. The person of contact about grants of Royal Society is Dr. Hans Hagen (hans.hagen@royalsociety.org.uk , +44-(0)202-7451-2551).

Royal Society publishes seven journals including the publication of the world’s first scientific journal “Philosophical Transactions” in 1665.  Philosophical Transactions published historically significant articles such as (i) Light and colors by Newton in 1672; (ii) Flying a kite in an electrical storm by Franklin in 1752; (iii) First electric battery by Volta in 1800; (iv) Electromagnetism by Maxwell in 1865; (v) Structure of DNA by Watson and Clark in 1954; (vi) Black holes by Hawking in 1970; and (vii) Biodiversity by May in 1994.  The average rejection rate for its journals is about 75%.  So far, only about 5% of its published articles are authored by Asian.

Universities UK (UUK) is the representative body for the executive leadership of UK universities currently having 133 member universities and about 100 staff members in its three offices led by the Chief Executive, Dr. Nicola Dandridge. Although practically all universities in the UK are public universities and only few are private, universities in the UK are all autonomous institutions.  The university alliance, Universities UK, does not have any regulatory power to impose changes to its member universities.  The mission of UUK is to be the essential voice and the best support for a vibrant, successful and diverse university sector, to influence and create policies for higher education, and to provide an environment where the interest of the higher education can flourish.

Professor Steve Smith is the current President of Universities UK (UUK).  He has been Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter since October 2002. Dr. Nicola Dandridge serves as the Chief Executive.  Dr. Chris Hale is Deputy Director of Policy at Universities UK (UUK).  His responsibilities include developing and promoting policies on research assessment and funding, EU research, research ethics and governance, research careers and training, and issues relating to scholarly communications.

Universities in UK typically have a much lower student to teacher ratio and a higher staff to teacher ratio compared to those in Taiwan.  UK has nearly 3 times of the population of Taiwan while funding less universities (about 130) than that in Taiwan (about 160).  At the same time, the annual budget for higher education in the UK is much higher than that of Taiwan.  The higher education investment per student in the UK is many times that in Taiwan.  For a typical teacher who has taught for 10 years, the annual salary is about £60K (between £50K and £100K depending on performance). Teachers of different disciplines get the same treatment in their salaries while teachers of the same discipline get a wide range of salaries depending on individual performance.

After the visit of seven universities in UK, Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge of Universities UK (www.universitiesuk.ac.uk) hosted a dinner banquet in the London British Medical Association near the Hotel Russell, where we stayed, for the Taiwan delegation and a number of guests from around UK.  Guests whom I met in the dinner included Professor David Hornby, Head of Department of Molecular Biology & Biotechnology, The University of Sheffield (d.hornby@sheffield.ac.uk, www.sheffield.ac.uk/mbb), Dr. Julia Brown, Director of Business & Marketing, Life and Health Sciences, Aston University (j.y.brown@aston.ac.uk), Ms. Christine Skinner, Account Director, British Council (Christine.skinner@britishcouncil.org), Mr. Steve O’Leary, Director International Services Business (steve.oleary@ukti.gsi.gov.uk), and Professor Zheng-Xiao Guo, Professor of Materials Chemistry, Pro-Provost (China, Hong Kong and Macau), FCO/BIS Focal Point in Nano & Materials Science (UK-China) of UCL (z.x.guo@ucl.ac.uk, www.ucl.ac.uk/global/china).

Professor Jeremy P. Bradshaw, Director of Postgraduates and International Affairs, College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, The University of Edinburgh (j.bradshaw@ed.ac.uk) and Ms. Callista Punch, Manager, The UK Higher Education International and Europe Unit, Universities UK (callista.punch@europeunit.ac.uk) also attended the banquet.  After the banquet, Professor David Hornby of University of Sheffield showed the typical British hospitality and invited us to a bar in the Hotel Russell for beers and an informal chat.  Prof. Hornby came to London for signing a collaborative MOU pre-arranged with NCHU, Taiwan.  Through the informal chat, we learned many more details, which were not even touched in meetings during our visits of universities and organizations about both teaching and research for higher education in the UK.  Dean of R&D of NCHU will arrange for a future visit of Professor Hornby to Taiwan to explore further collaboration with universities of common interest in Taiwan.

Higher education in the UK appears to be more time-efficient than most of other countries.  Undergraduate programs are typically of three years long although four-year programs also exist.  Master degrees can be completed in one year while top talent students can complete their doctoral program in three years even without a Master degree.  Advanced degrees are offered as either research degrees without course taking requirements or taught degrees which requires passing of certain courses and credit hours.  Understanding the degree requirements, the educational system, and higher education strategies in the UK is essential to Taiwan-UK collaboration.
Director General Chang of NSC, Dean Yonhua Tzeng of NCKU, Professor David Hornby of University of Sheffield, Dean Chen of R&D of NCHU, and VP Perng of NTUST (from left to right) met to brainstorm about higher education in Hotel Russell, London.
Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge of Universities UK (standing) gave a welcome remark in a banquet hosted by UUK.
On July 21, the last day of stay by the Taiwan delegation in the UK, a Taiwan-UK Forum was hosted jointly by Universities UK and the Taiwan delegation in an effort to conclude with an executable action plan for realizing Taiwan-UK collaboration. The Forum was jointly chaired by President of UKK, Prof. Smith, and President of NTU, Prof. Lee.  Executive leaders from more than twenty research-intensive universities participated in this Forum.

After opening remarks made by President Smith of UUK and President Lee of NTU, keynote speeches were delivered by UUK’s Deputy Director of Policy Dr. Hale and Director General Chang of NSC, Taiwan.  An open discussion and Q&A session followed for exchange of information and ideas among participants.  Delegates of Taiwan’s top universities introduced the strengths and main themes of research in each university and invited participants for collaboration.  The open discussion session concluded with recommendations (1) to resolve double jeopardy issue regarding funding of Taiwan-UK collaborative projects and (2) to hold research workshops for promoting joint research projects and exchange of scholars, post-docs and students.
Taiwan-UK Forum held in London, UK on July 21, 2010.
A round-table discussion among representatives of Taiwan top universities and forum participants from universities around UK was carried out to allow participants of UK universities to discuss face to face with Taiwan delegation and share with each other their experiences in international collaboration and possible actions to be followed up after the visit.  The Forum concluded with exchange of gifts between Taiwan delegation and UUK.
Shown in the photo taken after the Taiwan-UK Forum are (from left to right) Dean of College of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Professor Tzeng, NCKU, President Steve Smith of UUK, and Dean of R&D Professor Chern, NTU.
President Lee of NTU Chaired a session for Taiwan delegates who introduced main research themes and strengths of top universities.
Shown in the photo are (from left to right) Ms. Chen of British Council Taipei, Ms. Tao of NSC, and Mr. Lai of British Council Taipei who helped arrange for the visit along with other staff and accompanied the Taiwan delegation to UK.
Financial sponsorship by National Science Council, Taiwan and British Council Taipei is appreciated.  This is a very fruitful and enjoyable visit of higher education in the UK, which would not be possible without very effective coordination among staffs of National Science Council Taiwan, Taipei Representative Office in the UK, British Council Taipei, and the Universities UK.

Design & Layout : Ivan Tarn, The Banyan Editorial Office
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