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Emerging HE policies highlight new political landscape

Interventionism is suddenly all the rage with the Westminster Conservative government, and higher education is feeling the impact as new policies and legislation are brought to bear on the sector, writes Johnny Rich, Chief Executive of Push and of the Engineering Professors’ Council.

Rethinking universities from the outside in

Mike Boxall, an independent researcher and consultant on higher education policies and strategies, and a senior adviser to PA Consulting, considers the emerging post-COVID world and its implications for the future of universities. His blog is based on a paper published recently by PA Consulting, and co-authored with its HE lead, Ian Matthias.

Is the government missing the real 'levelling up' value of HE?

The Westminster government should wake up to the full potential of higher education to help it meet its ‘levelling up’ goals, argues Professor Martin Jones, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Staffordshire University.

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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