Jobwatch: Push for research cash

July 9, 2004

The University of East London is advertising for a research director to help staff secure the coveted funds that so often elude new universities. Chris Johnston reports.

New universities continue to find themselves in something of a Catch 22 situation when it comes to research. Most are striving to increase both the quality and volume of their research output, but that is difficult to do without more funding, which comes only when more research is produced.

The University of East London is attempting to find answers to this problem by appointing a director of research, a position that is advertised in this week's Times Higher .

Alan Sibbald, pro vice-chancellor for research, outreach and infrastructure, says the new role is part of UEL's strategy to increase research output and raise its profile both internally and externally. "We have always believed that research is essential for the health of our teaching and scholarly initiatives," he says.

The director will provide information and advice to academics about obtaining funding for research projects, act as a mentor, monitor performance and develop closer links with funding bodies.

The university has a good track record for research from what Professor Sibbald called "modest government funding" and some researchers have gained national and international recognition. It claims to be a top ten post-1992 university for research.

Forty-one per cent of UEL staff in 15 subject areas were entered for the last research assessment exercise, but only three departments were rated 4 or above. Communication, cultural and media studies earned a 5, with sociology and art and design both gaining a 4. The new director will play a key role in the drive to improve the university's performance in the next RAE in 2008.

Funding from third-stream activities are crucial to UEL's research efforts, Professor Sibbald says. He adds that UEL is "delighted" with the recent award of £2.4 million in the second round of the Higher Education Innovation Fund, as well as £1 million for a knowledge exchange centre.

A further £6.5 million has come from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to support its knowledge-exchange activities.

Professor Sibbald says the university is working closely with industry and is committed to aiding the regeneration of the Thames Gateway area.

In addition to the director of research role, UEL has advertised for four high-flyers to head multidisciplinary centres focusing on four areas: digital media and computer games, sustainability, human potential and entrepreneurship. It is expected that the director will have an interest in at least one of these areas.

The appointee will report to Professor Sibbald and work closely with the heads of schools and their senior research staff.

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