London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Assessing the impact of developments in research policy for research on higher education: An exploratory study

Funded by a Research Award from the Society for Research into Higher Education


June 2011-June 2012


The overall aim is to explore the implications of current Government research policy for academic research on higher education in the UK. The objectives are to:

  1. Identify dominant discourses and constructions of research in current UK research policy
  2. Explore academics'  perceptions and experiences of the impact of current research policies on their research activities
  3. Identify the extent to which perceptions and experiences of policy impact reflect differing locations, identities and positionality within the field of HE.
  4. Consider the implications of the findings for the future of research on higher education.


Recent policy developments in the UK, including the publication of the Browne Report (2010), the 2010 Spending Review (HM Treasury 2010)  and higher education funding announcements are dramatically impacting on the higher education sector in this country. Although the 'Science and Research' (now the ‘Science’) budget has been relatively protected, it is still subject to a real terms cut of 9%. Funding priorities have been revised, with increasing emphasis on the STEM subjects, and HEFCE has been instructed to adopt the policy of ‘selectively funding on the basis of only internationally excellent research’ (BIS 2010). The emphasis on increased selectivity is not new (see e.g. McNay 2003 ) and indeed was reasserted by the previous government (BIS 2009). However, the direction of current policy suggests that funding will be even further confined to fewer elite universities, with other universities and departments not only losing funding but also at risk of closure. This is despite evidence of ‘pockets’ of research excellence across the sector in the outcomes of RAE 2008 (see also HEFCE 2005).

The proposed study is designed to provide a snapshot of  academics’ perceptions and experiences of this emerging policy agenda and the impact it may have upon their own research and on research policies and activities within their department or university.

The study includes both the monitoring and analysis of policy developments on research and email interviews with 25 academics who specialise in research on higher education. The focus is on research policy stemming from the UK Government, whilst recognising differences in national contexts, e.g. between England and Scotland.

Project Team

The research is being led by Professor Carole Leathwood and conducted in collaboration with Dr. Barbara Read, University of Roehampton.



Professor Carole Leathwood,


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