Less frequent evaluation for academic departments

Regina Lau

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Academic departments will need to go through the evaluation process for the Reward Scheme to Maximize Students' Learning once every three years, instead of once every year. Moreover, it has been proposed that the amount of the award should be $3 million, or 10 per cent of the current departmental annual budget, whichever is less.

At a forum to review the reward scheme on 15 March, the above changes were proposed by the scheme's evaluation panel chairman, Professor Joseph Lai, Chair Professor in the Department of Physics and Materials Science. The proposal to change the evaluation cycle from the current one year to three years has already been approved by the Management Board, he said. Eventually, the practice of academic departments submitting an annual report to the reward scheme every year will be replaced by submitting only those at the start of each triennium for assessment.

The Evaluation Panel has also agreed to consider the suggestion that, because the last exercise was conducted in 1999/00 to review departmental activities in 1998/99, the next exercise should cover only a two-year period from 1999/01, to avoid overlap.

Questions on selection criteria, dissemination of the winning departments' good practices and the award amount were raised by attendees at the forum. While Professor Lai admitted that the process is "difficult" like "marking examination papers"--which inevitably involves subjective judgment--he maintained that the scores separately assigned by the panel members were surprisingly "in agreement". He also expressed reservations about making public the reports submitted by the winning departments. "It is important to learn from the departments that did not win as well."

Concerns about "the rich getting richer" and thus being in a more advantageous position in the next round of the contest, and increasing the number of panel members for greater objectivity were expressed at the forum. While some argued that the award amount is too small to provide an incentive, some raised the counter viewpoint: "Spending that much money could be painful."

 

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