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HEi-know Weekly HE News Review: Diversity matters

Mike Ratcliffe, Academic Registrar at Nottingham Trent University, reviews HE sector news in a week when T levels, educational “snobbery”, Oxbridge admissions, and a new universities minister made the headlines.

MPs urge the government to break down barriers to nursing degree apprenticeships

Nursing degree apprenticeships as a successful and sustainable route into the profession will forever be a mirage unless barriers to delivery are torn down, MPs have warned.

UUK roundtable to consider flagging students' mental health problems to parents

Universities UK is bringing together university leaders, mental health experts, and students and parents to consider when a nominated family member or another appropriately identified person might be contacted if a student is suffering with poor mental health or in acute distress.

Graduate earnings probed, unconditional offers questioned, a business levy proposed, and a minister resigned … another news-packed week in HE

Professor Mark Smith, Vice-Chancellor of Lancaster University, and Nicola Owen, Lancaster’s Chief Administrative Officer and Secretary, kick off a new series of HEi-know weekly higher education news reviews, highlighting and commenting on some of the most significant and interesting HE stories and opinions of the past week.

Quality of staff rather than size leads to top research performance, study finds

Top performing research units are most likely to contain highly experienced well qualified staff with a wide range of experience and strong networks who enjoy a high level of autonomy, a study has concluded.

The study by the Policy Institute at King’s College London and the research institute RAND Europe identified eight key characteristics of top performing units in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework.

Staff in units whose submissions were in the top 1.5 per cent of the REF were more likely to have PhDs, professorships, international experience and salaries which were at least partly-funded from external sources.

Top-performing units also “had a degree of earned or accountable autonomy” and were “allowed to get on with what they were doing”, partly because it was recognised that they were successful, says a report on the findings published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The best submissions were made by units that had good collaboration and networks, a coherent strategy and diverse funding sources, plus supportive institutional and departmental practices. Top performers were also found to award more research doctoral degrees than average units, were focused on recruiting the best people and retaining them, and received more income per researcher than the average unit.

Staff in top-performing units benefited from training and mentoring programmes and were rewarded for strong performance, and also displayed “a distinct ethos of social and ethical values”, the report adds.

“While the literature points to the importance of department size, critical mass and a focus on general productivity as a measure of success, our own observations relate to the characteristics of staff within departments, and the importance placed on recruiting the best,” it says.

 

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