srhe

The Society for Research into Higher Education

Julie Bounford UEA


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It’s about the (academic) community, stupid!

By Julie Bounford

This blog first appeared on 23 February 2014 on Julie Bounford’s personal blog at http://jebounford.net/its-about-the-academic-community-stupid/

I recently had a conversation about my doctoral research with an acquaintance I met at a dinner dance who asked, ‘what are you doing it in, what are you doing it for?’ Not an unreasonable question. I began my reply by saying that it was in the sociology of education and whilst I was conjuring up an answer to the latter question (it changes from day to day), they retorted in a jocular fashion, ‘the sociology of vegetation? You’re researching vegetables?’ The acquaintance laughed, a little uneasily. Perhaps they had misheard me.

My sense of humour is reasonably well honed but at that particular moment I was not in a frame of mind to see the joke; on them or on me. Continue reading

IanMcNay


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Lies, damned lies and spin; never mind the statistics

By Ian McNay

Press reports, 31 January, on UCAS statistics on the 15 January deadline showed remarkable unanimity around telling, shall we say…not the whole truth:

-         Girls lead the way as degree applications hit record levels – Times

-         Record numbers of 18-year-olds apply to university – Telegraph

-         University applications hit record high – Guardian

The Telegraph had a second story claiming the number of applicants aged 20 and over had increased by 5%.

All this gave comfort to [English] ministers who claim that high fees have had no long term effect on applications. So, let us look at the longer term and compare the cycle for 2014 entry Continue reading

JenniferLeigh1


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SRHE Newer Researchers’ Conference 2013

By Jennifer Leigh

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the SRHE Newer Researchers conference. The day began with Mike Neary’s thought provoking keynote on ‘students as producers’. He explained this as an act of resistance to ‘students as consumers’ rather than ‘student engagement’ or ‘student-led teaching’. We were then thrust into a very full day of research seminars, all supported by an active twitter back channel.

The conference organised the presenters into Continue reading

CeredigJamiesonBall


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What do postgraduates need?

By Ceredig Jamieson-Ball

Conducting research into how different parts of the higher education sector have responded to policy developments can help us develop better support for academics and institutions as they seek to ensure that students have the best possible learning opportunities. The same evidence-base, gathered now, will provide vital data when it comes to influencing future policy and understanding how changes might affect those at the centre of higher education – students.

Over the last few years reform of higher education in the UK has provided a discussion point for everyone with an interest in the sector, from parents to policy-makers, from academics to administrators. It’s now three years since the Browne report, and there is still plenty of discussion about what the upper limit on tuition fees in England should be and how the devolved governments around the rest of the UK are financing higher education. Continue reading

MarciaDevlin


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Taking university teaching seriously

By Marcia Devlin

University teaching appears to be back in fashion in Australia this year. A report, Taking university teaching seriously, was released this year by an independent think tank, just prior to the federal election. The report argues for a greater number of ‘teaching-focused’ academic staff across the higher education sector. The idea is that teaching-focused academics, as the name suggests, focus their time and effort primarily on teaching and related scholarship. The precise split of time between teaching preparation, practice and scholarship varies depending on the particulars of the appointment. This report followed another earlier in the year commissioned by the commonwealth Office for Learning and Teaching, Teaching-focused academic appointments in Australian universities. Both reports outline the reasons for restricting the growth of such appointments to date and the arguments for potentially increasing them. Continue reading

PaulTemple


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If HR is the answer, perhaps we’re asking the wrong question

By Paul Temple

We all know that universities are, above all, people businesses. Every university depends on specialist staff to provide often complex services typically to thousands of students, some of them on a one-to-one basis. Their academic staff members are mostly expected to work at the intellectual frontiers of their disciplines, and are relied on to do so with minimal supervision. The people management issues involved here must therefore be a central concern for any university’s senior management: get this wrong, and the place is in real trouble. So the HR director has a task of at least comparable importance to her colleagues directing teaching, planning research, or exercising overall financial control. Universities are all about people, so HR has to be a key function – right?

Wrong. The analogy with finance, in particular, is tempting but false. Continue reading

VickyGunn


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The bright new world of academic careers?

Vicky Gunn

Scotland’s universities, like many in the rest of Europe, are busy trying to navigate the emergent waves relating to academic careers. New contractual systems are coming in like a Spring Tide, washing away previous obligations and replacing them with new ones, in some cases loosely and in others profoundly, tied to performance.  This performance is not just in a general category (eg research or teaching or service) but across several categories (publications, grant income, teaching excellence, leadership, management, administration, esteem, knowledge exchange and impact.) 

Additionally, early career high fliers are being promised reductions Continue reading

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