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The past week’s higher education news demonstrates that there are certain expectations of universities that policymakers, HE leaders and the Augar review are expected to address, says Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of the Engineering Professors’ Council and Chief Executive of outreach organisation Push .
Leaders of thirty universities have signed a Civic University Agreement, reaffirming their institution's commitment to their local communities by pledging to put the economy and quality of life in their home towns and cities at the top of their list of priorities.
Jenny Shaw , Student Experience Director at Unite Students, draws lessons on the higher education sector's efforts to improve the student experience from a week of HE news and views.
From this September, students will be able to opt to study an accelerated two year degree, as opposed to a traditional three year course. Professor Malcolm Todd, Provost (Academic) at the University of Derby, discusses why universities should consider the change in legislation and look to offer accelerated degrees.
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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