Timely response to social needs has been central to the research and knowledge transfer (KT) work of Lingnan University, as encapsulated in the tagline RESEARCH at Lingnan University: Impact with CARE. It is an important mission of our Research and KT work as a Liberal Arts university where knowledge and humanity should be inter-woven in our endeavours for the betterment of society.
With our passion for and strengths in research and KT of high social value and international resonance, we are gratified to present our world-class Impact Cases in the UGC Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) 2020 which demonstrate impact created from our scholars’ research and expertise to the direct benefits of the community and professions.
The University Grants Committee (UGC) announced yesterday (24 May 2021) the results of the Research Assessment Exercise 2020. In terms of research impact, more than half of the Impact Cases submitted by Lingnan were rated as 4* or 3*.
4 star - outstanding impacts in terms of their reach and significance
3 star - considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance
2 star - some impacts in terms of their reach and significance
1 star - limited impacts in terms of their reach and significance
Lingnan University’s Business Unit has conducted extensive research into people-oriented leadership practices, and has established methods to increase the effectiveness of these leadership practices based on a new understanding of the underlying mechanisms and boundary conditions. Through a process of sustained engagement and consultancy with a range of companies, the unit has translated its research findings into practical solutions which enable companies to transform their management philosophy and practices, and therefore achieve greater competitiveness.
A range of businesses, including SMEs and large listed state companies, have experienced a positive impact after applying the University’s research. The research was used to improve leadership practices and HR policy decisions via a research-informed consultancy, training workshops, and practitioner-oriented reports. Companies changed their management philosophy and practices, and improved their management training and development, after consultation with Lingnan’s researchers, and reported positive results.
One successful application of the University’s research took place at a listed state-owned company active in dairy manufacturing and retail. The company needed to improve the effectiveness of its leadership to ensure sustainable development. Researchers worked with the company to increase top management’s awareness of people-oriented leadership, and to inform HR policy decisions and managerial practice regarding recruitment, leadership training, and promotion and career development.
As a result, the company’s HR department redesigned managerial policies to incorporate a people-oriented leadership concept. During the researchers’ three-year engagement, which took the form of an ongoing research-informed consultancy service, the company observed an increase in employee satisfaction and decreased staff turnover. Sales growth has been partly attributed to the University’s research.
The Business Unit’s research was also used to aid hi-tech start-ups in the Pearl River Delta. The University’s research helped the companies improve their internal hierarchies, knowledge sharing and integration, communication and coordination, and product innovation. The improvements guided by Lingnan’s research increased their capability to address external threats, and therefore improved their chances of survival.
Lingnan’s research demonstrates that people-oriented leadership practices can be applied to organisations in Chinese societies, despite the command-and-control leadership traditions of these organisations. The research shows how to increase the effectiveness of people-oriented leadership practices based on a new understanding of the underlying mechanisms and boundary conditions. The research findings provide a foundation for helping organisations transform their management philosophy and practices to become more competitive.
The Economics and Finance Unit has produced a wealth of research output that has influenced competition policy development in terms of policy debate and design. The Unit’s research has also had direct impact on competition law enforcement in China by drafting various important regulations for the enforcement of China’s 2018 Anti-Monopoly Law, on the drafting of the merger control regulations in China, which have been used by the competition agency to assess over 3,000 merger notifications, and it has been used to directly assist the competition law enforcement agency in high-profile cases. The Unit has also introduced international best practices and up-to-date economic reasoning to China by translating books into Chinese and via case analysis.
In 2010, the Unit was commissioned to undertake a project for the Anti-Monopoly Bureau of the Ministry of Commerce of China. This research significantly impacted merger reviews by China’s competition law enforcement agency from 2011 to 2018. The project outcomes produced two major reports. The first report surveyed state-of-the-art antitrust laws in economics and “best practices” in the major developed economies regarding merger control. It also revised the merger guidelines in the US, the UK, and Australia, and made recommendations for merger control policy in China.
The second report proposed “Merger Guidelines” for China. These served as the basis for China’s Anti-Monopoly authority to promote its Interim Regulation on Assessing the Competition Impacts of Concentrations among Undertakings in 2011.
Education inequality is still a pressing problem in Chinese society. The research team at Lingnan University’s Department of Economics designed and executed a series of projects in collaboration with local education bureaus in China to solve this problem. Over 17 cities/counties, 300 schools, and 50,000 students participated in the projects. Several of the team’s innovative education practices have been shown to improve student test scores in underperforming schools, and its research has generated insights into how government education policies can be improved to help disadvantaged children.
Starting in 2012, the team organised a series of studies in Hunan Province, China. The study consisted of an after-school, cross-age tutoring programme for 760 students in 79 rural schools. The outcomes of these studies attracted the attention of the local government with regard to their future plans for education, and they were also cited in research reports by international organisations such as the Asian Development Bank.
Researchers from the University also signed agreements with education bureaus in Nanchang, Zhaoqing, Zhongshan, and Xinshao to help them evaluate the effects of various forms of e-learning. The research is still on-going, but it has already generated many useful insights. For example, in Nanchang, all participating students in the experimental group were given a laptop by the local education bureau for e-learning. The research team helped the schools identify useful e-learning materials, and researchers designed a reward scheme for students targeting improvement in their test scores. The combination of e-learning and a pay-for-grade scheme has never been trialed before.
The Pan-Sutong Shanghai Hong Kong Economic Research Institute at Lingnan University signed collaborative agreements with the National STEAM Education and Research Centre of the China National Institute of Education Science, and with Intel Global Education, to form a Lingnan-Intel Intelligent and Innovation Centre. Such collaborations have enabled it to become the local champion when it comes to promoting STEAM education and research. The Centre has organised three annual STEAM Young Maker Competitions in Hong Kong, and these competitions have attracted over 2,000 students from China, the US, and Malaysia.
Research by cultural studies and music research expert Tejaswini Niranjana, a professor of Cultural Studies at Lingnan University, offers a comparative historical analysis of Chinese music and Indian music. Musical exchanges between the two cultures began in the 6th century, but colonialism and the formation of modern nations impeded further hybridization. This has resulted in a misperception that Indian and Chinese musical cultures are isolated from each other. The performance-based project underscored the links between the two musical cultures and allowed musicians and audiences to discover new ways of multicultural musical collaboration.
After establishing music’s role in creating modern identities in India, Prof Niranjana extended her research to draw comparisons between India and greater China, exploring whether music had played a similar role in the Chinese context. The resulting research shows how Chinese and Indian musicians change the way they make music through collaborative musical compositions, instrumental adaptations, and new lyrical content. Award-winning Hong Kong-based songwriter Chow Yiu-Fai, for example, developed new compositional techniques to adapt Cantonese lyrics to Hindustani music, leading him to experiment with different rhymes, word choices, and musical content. In terms of instrumental adaptation, Chinese musician Ip Kimho explored how to expand the possibilities of playing compositions based on Indian ragas on a Chinese instrument.
The research also had an impact on how music is presented in galleries. Performances that combine Indian and Chinese elements are unusual in galleries and art spaces in Asia. Only since 2016, when Prof Niranjana’s research started, have performances of this type have been presented in India and Hong Kong. The project brought changes to the existing framework in which curators and performance programmers organise their programmes, challenging the customary presentation of art objects and performances only in comparison to the ‘West’ or Euro-American art practices. Benefits included the formation of new dialogues between musicians, visual artists and curators.
The kind of musical collaboration demonstrated by Prof Niranjana’s project has been unknown in the contexts of India and China. But since then, her research has altered the way the musical public in India, Hong Kong and China perceive intercultural music, and increased its appreciation. After attending one of the project’s public performances, music-lover and blogger Poorva Rajaram said: “Unlike the usual ‘fusion’ concert, the performers were not simply playing the forms of music most familiar to them, but actually exchanging traditions and techniques to create new music. The experience of sitting through the concert made me realise it was possible to converse across musical traditions, without actually relying on words.”
The Hong Kong and South China Historical Research Programme (HKSCHRP), created by the History Department of Lingnan University, stands at the forefront of research into Hong Kong’s local history. The research of Professor Lau Chi-pang had considerable impact on local communities and on Hong Kong’s primary and secondary education systems, and has been used as the basis for a variety of lectures, publications, online resources, and collaborative projects with governmental cultural bodies to promote the community’s engagement with their local history and heritage. The research impacted primary and secondary education, the public understanding of Hong Kong’s history, and regional collaboration.
The HKSCHRP leads the research into Hong Kong’s local history. A donation from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust was used to establish the “Jockey Club Hong Kong History Learning Programme” in 2015. This three-year programme worked with about 60 primary and secondary schools on the implementation of related teaching and learning activities that examined Hong Kong’s history, supporting the key learning area of "Personal, Social and Humanities Education".
The programme’s key output was the creation of tailor-made teaching kits which were trialed, reviewed and refined through thematic seminars, study tours, oral history workshops and mobile exhibitions. A majority of the 22 participating teachers said that these teaching kits would increase students’ interest in learning history.
Compiling local records is helpful for the public understanding of their own society and for the enhancement of community cohesion. The HKSCHRP is committed to research in this area, and its work resulted in the publication of the first-ever village gazetteer in Hong Kong, which focused on Lin Ma Hang village, located on the Shenzhen-Hong Kong border.
The HKSCHRP is committed to preserving the local history of Hong Kong through collaboration with local governmental bodies. The chief beneficiaries are the residents of local communities.
Professor Michael Ingham from the Department of English has creatively adapted a range of English literary and dramatic works for the Hong Kong context, attracting new audiences and enriching the local cultural environment. Drawing on an extensive body of research in literary adaptation and drama education, Prof Ingham has worked closely with local cultural organisations and schools to stage performances, organise play readings, give lectures, and explore new ways of teaching literary texts.
His research has achieved impact by enriching the cultural environment, building the capacity for creative expression and intercultural reflection, extending public discourse and informing educational practices.
Prof Ingham’s outreach work has enriched the cultural environment and built the capacity for creative expression and intercultural reflection by organising public performances and discussions, attended by a broad cross-section of the local public. By exploring the contemporary and local relevance of the themes raised in literary works, these events have also extended public discourse.
Additional pedagogical impacts have been achieved by outreach activities in local schools. These have included including drama training workshops for teachers, and a knowledge transfer project aimed at informing educational practices. In evaluating these activities, it must be appreciated that English is a second language in Hong Kong and that awareness of English drama and performance, whether in education or cultural life more generally, is limited.
Prof Ingham has further applied his knowledge of adaptation and performance to exploring new ways of teaching literature in secondary schools. He obtained an internal Knowledge Transfer (KT) grant in June 2017 to explore the use of simulation technology.
As Hong Kong students often find the study of Western literature challenging, the project aimed to stimulate their imaginations via the more visually concrete world of the online experience Second Life. Characters in the form of avatars allowed students to engage with the text, and with filmic adaptations of the original text in ways that would have been impossible without the assistance of a virtual learning environment. Evidence of impact comes from an evaluation report on the project, which found benefits including increased confidence and interest in English among participants.
Tax avoidance is an issue of global and local scope, and the main challenge is the restructuring of government policies to close tax loopholes. Academic research has proved to be an essential resource to guide such restructuring to make it as efficient and effective as possible. Research conducted at Lingnan University aims to do just this. Specifically, it sets out to support the government and the business community in three main ways: by informing stakeholders through accessible publications in the business press and practitioner journals; by participating in public policy research; and by engaging with industry via tax consultancy.
The research impact generated is in three major areas. They communicate tax avoidance mechanisms to stakeholders, engage with industry practices via the provision of training programmes and consultancy services, and participate in practice research to inform tax policies. The findings have been disseminated through multiple platforms that target a general and professional readership. Such contributions have raised public awareness and added to media discourse of tax avoidance in China.
Positioning its research to raise public awareness of tax avoidance in general, and avoidance through profit shifting in particular, the Lingnan University team has conducted empirical tax research that has implications for policy makers and business communities.
Lingnan’s research has shown that the effectiveness of tax systems to protect revenues is influenced by both formal and informal institutions, and that successful tax reform should not be limited to strengthening the tax administration within the revenue system alone. Instead, it should encompass a country’s political and business environments, including government-business relationships, the political economy of regulatory agencies, and the incentives and behaviour of different actors outside the system. Through disseminating its findings to the public, Lingnan’s research helps minimise unintended consequences of public policy initiatives and reforms.
Research by Professor Roman David from Lingnan’s Department of Sociology and Social Policy provided crucial assistance to Ukraine’s national legislators, Supreme Court judges, Ministry of Justice, Bar Association, journalists, and civil society groups in crafting legal options to restore trust in the state of Ukraine from 2014 to 2016. The research draws on original conceptual development, socio-legal studies and innovative survey experiments conducted by Prof David in Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and South Africa.
Prof David was invited to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, as an independent consultant to provide best practice expertise on a number of lustration initiatives that arose in the aftermath of the political changes known as “Maidan Revolution”, which saw the deposition in 2014 of the Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovych. Prof David’s brief was to furnish options for the Ukraine parliament and judiciary to craft lustration laws consistent with Council of Europe norms.
The initial stage pivoted on Prof David’s comparative research on the design of exclusive, inclusive and reconciliatory models of resolution of personnel issues. That is, on how to deal with members of previous administrations during periods of transformation. Prof David’s research impacted a broader public via the translation of academic and policy-oriented research.
One of the major challenges of lustration laws is designing them to conform to both domestic and international human rights standards. The Ministry of Justice in Ukraine used Prof David’s report to clarify its position on lustration law, and the expert group of the Venice Commission cited Prof David’s publication in a report that gave Ukraine permission from the Council of Europe to start implementing the lustration laws.
Prof David gave advice on best practices and the monitoring of lustration. He then designed a nationwide survey on the subjective dimension of trust in state institutions, and a survey on the objective dimension of trust among Ukraine’s judges. The results were captured in two additional research reports, both of which were translated, disseminated among Ukrainian officials, and distributed to civil society members.
Managing knowledge and big data present challenges for large scale organisations, where the capacity to make data-driven decisions and share knowledge has considerable implications for operational efficiency. Research undertaken by Lingnan University is leveraging big data analytics in a real-world setting for a knowledge-intensive business serving 12 international locations.
Lingnan’s research has informed the development of a new Knowledge Management System (KMS), which is making data-driven decisions in the organisation, improving operational efficiency and service quality. The organisation uses the KMS and the research underpinning it to identify opportunities for enhancing productivity and to promote a dynamic business culture to foster knowledge management.
The KMS uses the insights gained from text mining generated by the research of Prof Eric See-To and his collaborators, and the hidden cause discovery algorithms developed by Prof Wong Man-leung and his team, to provide functions that make it possible for the organisation’s staff to collect, store, share and search useful knowledge. The KMS has allowed the organisation to conduct centralised knowledge management more efficiently, share and reuse available knowledge, and extract data-driven insights about their operations. Managers use the information generated to identify opportunities for increasing productivity, to make data-driven decisions about operational efficiency and business service quality, to streamline the internal logistics of flow materials, and to promote learning.
Evaluation of the KMS system trial revealed multiple benefits for the organisation, including an enhanced technical knowledge of staff, which is expected to increase competitiveness. As well as the operational benefits, staff report that the new system has benefitted their work and practice as it creates business value, offers real-time support for employees, and provides information about existing and potential customers. In feedback collected after the final trial of the system, two-thirds of the staff reported that their operations were more efficient as a result of using it. The KMS has demonstrated a high potential to be developed, commercialised, and used by other similar industries in Hong Kong.