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Conceptions of what is excellent in higher education are starting to change

Professor Edward Peck, Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, outlines strategies adopted by NTU that are boosting social mobility and which helped it win the inaugural Guardian University of the Year award, a gong he believes shows how notions of excellence in HE are changing.

A house divided? Growing divisions and inequalities in HE

Mike Boxall, who has thirty years' experience as a consultant and commentator on strategic developments in higher and further education, finds evidence in recent news of growing and worrying divisions within UK higher education.

UK HE must put its house in order to maintain global excellence

News on higher education over the past week highlights an urgent need for the sector to get to grips with ethical issues that have a bearing on the way it is managed and governed, argues Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations at Council for Higher Education in Art and Design (CHEAD).

Rising staff costs putting universities under greater pressure, warns Moody's

UK universities will face greater financial pressure over the next three years due to rising staff costs as they accommodate more students, retain talent and negotiate pay rises,  Moody's has warned.

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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