Higher education research is on the up 2

January 15, 2009

I am genuinely baffled by the assertion that higher education research in the UK languishes in the doldrums.

At the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers' conference in Pavia last September, a large number of research groups from all over the UK were in evidence.

Since the early 1990s, our own research centre, the Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise, has been actively engaged around the area of universities and regional development with the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (now Universities UK), the Dearing Review, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Department for Education and Skills (now the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills), Parliament and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Also we designed and trialled the Higher Education-Business and Community Interaction Survey, used by the Government for the allocation of Higher Education Innovation Fund resources. There is currently a £2.5 million research initiative funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and the funding councils on the Regional Impacts of Higher Education, which emerged out of pressure from our wider research community of peers, involving nine research groups.

UK participants were instrumental in persuading the OECD to undertake a five-year research programme on universities' regional contributions. And as for the field's representation at the top level, Sir David Watson, an expert in the history of higher education, recently retired as vice-chancellor of the University of Brighton.

This wider UK community might not always be in schools of education, but it is active, excellent and shaping academic and policy agendas in the UK and beyond.

Paul Benneworth, Centre for Knowledge, Innovation, Technology and Enterprise, Newcastle University.

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