REF 2014

This THE article shows a remarkable consistency in REF submissions that contain exactly 14 or 24 full time staff. Why should this be? Because, if one submits more than 14 full time staff, then one also has to submit three (rather than two) impact case studies. Having a poor impact case study in one’s submission is much more damaging than not having one (even two or three) members of staff included — regardless of how good their research is. Not being included in a REF submission is a potentially career-damaging event. Even those who unequivocally agree that research should have an impact, and that impact should be measured, should find depressing the unintended effects of the REF rules.

On part-time postgraduate study

Here is an article in the Guardian, about part-time postgraduate study.  As a quick recap of how p-t study differs from full-time, and what specific opportunities or challenges it presents, this is a good piece. It distinguishes between effectively three types of course: (i) part-time on-campus study, which is the traditional mode but at a more leisurely pace; (ii) courses that are a hybrid between on-campus study and online learning — perhaps a brief week-long intensive residency, followed by online support; (iii) courses that are entirely online, and have no on-campus dimension. However, what the article does not do is fully articulate these differences in a way that would be useful to prospective students, or to the Universities offering courses.

All three of these are part-time — but the ‘pros and cons’ are quite different, as is the ‘feel’ of studying in these ways. The first type is, in fact, much more like a full-time traditional degree than anything else. I think the The Guardian could have said more about these differences. The distance learning Masters and PhD programs in which Staffordshire University is a pioneer, are type (iii) (although attendance for the PhD final oral examination is normally required).

Research Excellence Framework funding – a fair share needed

Universities are vital to a successful local and regional economy; many of them are carrying out applied research with business and other stakeholders such as Local Enterprise Partnerships. The Research Excellence Framework funding allocation acts as seed money for many of these universities. For example, the money we have received last time at Staffordshire University has allowed us to lever in EU project funds and to provide staff time to bid successfully for work with companies.

December 2014 provided the announcement of the Research Excellence Framework results for British Universities. What these results demonstrated is that world class research was occurring throughout most of the University sector although often in pockets within a University. The summary for Staffordshire University is here

Research funding in the UK is overly concentrated in two ways:

a. The vast bulk of the money goes to a very small number of Universities, in fact University research funding is the most concentrated research funding in the world. For example, in 2013-2014 the top 9 universities received 51% of research funding, and 87 universities shared just 10% of the funding.

b. An incredible spatial concentration of funding to London and Oxbridge. A further concentration of funding is only likely to exacerbate regional inequalities in the UK.

Decisions on the split  for funding will focus on how much is awarded to 3* and how much to 4* units over the next couple of months. We need to see that research rated at 3* receives at least 40% of the allocated budget with the remaining 60% going towards 4* rated research that way world class research will get funded regardless of where it takes place.

Dermot Lynott provides an initial look at the Psychology ref and whether we are getting bang for the buck with some of the most prestigious universities.

Dorothy Bishop has an  entry on how the REF exercises over time have led to a divergence in the sector and whether this is desirable.

A wider spread of funding will be best for the UK and best for the regions the Universities serve.

Images of Research Competition

The Staffordshire University Images of Research Competition1 was launched in 2014. Here at Staffordshire University we are engaged in applied research that has an impact locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Through our Applied Research Centres (ARCs), smaller research institutes and centres, and our specialist business training and support service; we develop highly viable and practical solutions to real-world problems. We promote knowledge transfer. We support postgraduate research. We engage with industry, commerce, the healthcare professions and our communities.

The Images of Research Competition allowed us to showcase our work; using just an image and 150 words competition entrants aimed to give an insight into their research activity showing how they make a difference, have real world impact and produce real benefits. The competition culminated in an exhibition of the images in the Science Centre and the announcement of the winner.

Richard Halfpenny’s winning entry was entitled “The better to smell you with”. He is pictured below being awarded his trophy by Professor Allan Howells, Deputy Vic e Chancellor for Research, Enterprise and External Affairs at Staffordshire University.


Richard’s winning image

Richard photographed a section of the antennae of a male British mosquito, magnified 100 times. The mosquito in the image had come from Stoke-on-Trent. Richard explained how he is trying to learn more about how mosquitos use their antennae to find sources of sugar. If he can understand more about this behaviour and the kinds of smells that attract mosquitos, he hopes to develop chemical smells that will work to better control mosquitos in the future.

awarding of prize

Richard receiving his award from Prof Howells

***** ***** *****

Link to PDF of the brochure.Images of Research Brochure


1 This competition was inspired by Images of Research at the University of Bath.

Welcome to the Professoriate’s blog!

Staffordshire University Professoriate

The Professoriate is a forum for the Professors of Staffordshire University to influence and contribute to the advancement of University Policies and Strategies in the areas of Research and Scholarship, Learning and Teaching, Enterprise, Research Governance and Staff Development.

The members of the Professoriate act as academic ambassadors and intellectual leaders, to enhance the research, scholarship, teaching and learning and enterprise culture within the University. To facilitate this several events across the University are being supported and hosted by this group.

Currently, it is coordinated by its Chair and a core group of Professors drawn from all Faculties and subject areas. This group meets a few times a year to discuss key issues.

The whole Professoriate normally meets twice a year with another extended meeting in summer hosted by the Vice Chancellor, which will be extended to the Emeritus and Visiting Professors, Visiting Fellows and Associate Professors.

We hope you enjoy reading the blogs and contribute to the discussions!