Research capacity building has become a prominent theme in higher education institutions across the world. To build research capacity, it is necessary to identify areas of challenges academics face within the academia. This case study focuses on Chinese teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) academics with the purpose of identifying factors that influence their research capacity building. Six TEFL academics from a Chinese national university were interviewed and institutional research documents were analysed. Findings showed that obstacles and difficulties in conducting research were more related to departmental factors than individual characteristics. The institution was keen on developing a research culture, and encouraged research and publications. Departmental support for research was improving, but it seems that it was more generic than tailored to individual needs. The findings of this study provide implications for research administrators in further supporting TEFL academics’ research capacity building.