Posts Tagged ‘higher-education-funding

30
Mar
17

a50

Here is the statement from the seven national academies of the UK on the day that that UK government set in train the process of leaving the European Union.

Last November, the British Academy provided written evidence to the British Parliament, including an assessment of the impact on UK Higher Education of leaving the EU. Here are a few points taken from that document:

  • The UK is currently underinvesting in research and innovation compared to its main competitors, and European funding makes a significant contribution. This is particularly the case in the humanities and the social sciences; from 2007 to 2015, for example, UK-based researchers in this area won over €626 million (just over a third of all total funding available in the humanities and social sciences) from Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants from the European Research Council (ERC). One of those was grants mine, and it made possible all the work in Bénin which you have been reading about in this blog. It probably also helped the Leverhulme Trust decide to award me the grant to work on cowrie shells.
  • A negative rhetoric towards ‘expertise’ has been developing. One famous instance was the justice secretary’s comment that the people of the UK have had enough of experts. The British Academy notes that  “Such rhetoric can create an environment that is understandably perceived as less conducive, less welcoming and more restrictive to academic freedom, enterprise and endeavour. As the UK withdraws from the EU, the higher education sector can ill afford a growing reputation, whether real or perceived, as one that does not acknowledge positively, respect and support academic expertise and scholarship”.
  • Almost 50% of UK academic papers are written with an international partner, of which currently 60% are with EU partners. EU nationals make up 16% of the UK-based academic workforce. The ten higher education institutions that do best in the Research Excellence Framework employ 125% more researchers from non-UK EU countries than the next best ten institutions.
  • EU students are an important part of the university scene. They make up 5.5% of the entire student body; in particular postgraduate research students from non-UK EU countries account for 13.7% of postgrads. The rhetoric on international students has become increasingly divisive and self-defeating for the UK’s position in the world, and its ability to maximise opportunities for able students and staff; a welcoming and cosmopolitan atmosphere is needed to attract overseas students, European or from the rest of the world.
  • The ERC would be a considerable attraction for UK-based researchers to bid for and, if successful, to leave the UK to go somewhere within the EU or an associated country. If the UK came to an agreement with the rest of the EU on EEA status, much of this would be mitigated. The crux of this, however, depends on freedom of movement, which in the current climate appears at best far from certain.

Clearly there are some difficult negotiations ahead for the UK government, and this has been known from some time. If you are interested in more reading along this vein then check out the British Academy’s notes on what they feel should be the UK’s negotiating objectives for the withdrawal from the EU.

 

13
Mar
12

Doctoral studentship in African archaeology and material culture

As mentioned, we are looking for a PhD student to join the team. The full text is on the SRU website, but briefly,

Applications are invited for a full PhD studentship in African Archaeology and material culture, to be held at the Sainsbury Research Unit, University of East Anglia, UK under the supervision of Dr Anne Haour in connection with her European Research Council funded project Crossroads of Empires. The studentship, tenable from September 2012 for a period of three years, will cover fees (Home/EU or International), living costs (along the lines set by UK Research Councils) and a contribution to fieldwork costs.

The project Crossroads of Empires centres on the Niger River valley at the border of Bénin and Niger. It is concerned, broadly, with the material signature of the political entities of the central Sahel in the second millennium AD, and with the way in which studies of craft specialists active today (dyers, potters, smiths, weavers…) can shed light on how past political entities affected skills and fashions. Applications from students proposing to conduct research along these broad topics will be welcome, but candidates are asked to develop a specific application which will include

–       a 500-word statement of intent outlining how their proposed project falls within the remit and aims of Crossroads
–       a research proposal – 1500 words maximum – explaining the key question to be considered, the methodology to be used.

In preparing these documents candidates are encouraged to contact Dr Haour, a.haour[AT]uea.ac.uk, for informal discussions on aims and directions. As a preliminary indication, the following areas of research, all with specific reference to the Niger Valley between Gao and Bussa, have been identified as key priorities for Crossroads: archaeological survey and test pitting along the Niger Valley; ethnographic studies of craft practices; trade and identity along the Niger River as seen in museum holdings; and oral and historical traditions relating to settlement and migration.

As well as the two documents outlined above applications must also include a CV (not more than three pages) and the names and contact details (including email) of two referees who are currently available to provide references. All must be in English. These documents should be emailed, as a single file not more than 1 MB in size, to l.shayes[AT]uea.ac.uk

The deadline for receipt of applications is Monday 16 April 20, 2012, 5 pm UK time.

11
Jan
12

Pre-announcement : Doctoral scholarship in West African Studies

A fully-funded doctoral scholarship, tenable at the Sainsbury Research Unit for the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas (University of East Anglia) under the supervision of Dr Anne Haour, will be available commencing October 2012, linked to the project Crossroads of empires.

The PhD scholarship will cover fees (UK/EU or International) and maintenance for three years, plus some fieldwork and conference costs. The topic, to be finalised in discussion with members of the Crossroads team, will fall within the following areas:

– ethnographic studies of craft practices;
– medieval and post-medieval archaeology of the Niger Valley;
– museum collections of the central Sahel;
– cultural heritage in West Africa.

Full details and an application form will be available in late February, with an anticipated application deadline of 1st April.

 

28
Oct
11

some good news about the REF

A follow-up of the issues in my earlier post Babies and research excellence

Decision on taking account of maternity leave in the REF

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) team today announces that following the consultation on draft panel criteria for the REF, the four UK funding bodies have taken an early decision on the arrangements for taking account of maternity leave in the REF.

An overwhelming majority of respondents to the consultation supported the proposal that researchers may reduce the number of outputs in a submission by one, for each period of maternity leave taken during the REF period. In light of the response, the funding bodies have decided that this approach will be implemented across all panels.

Further details of these arrangements, including arrangements for paternity and adoption leave, will be published as part of the final REF panel criteria and working methods, in January 2012.”

02
Sep
11

babies and research excellence

Some disturbing news from our masters at HEFCE, the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Every 5-6 years, all UK higher education institutions are assessed by HEFCE in a process called the Research Excellence Framework, known to friends as the REF. Each institution has to show how good it has been in producing ground-breaking research, looking after postgraduate students who will produce the ground-breaking research of the future, and making society a better place.

To evaluate their ground-breaking-ness, each academic member of staff has to present up to four ‘outputs’ they produced in the past 5-6 years (book, article, exhibition); these are assessed by a devoted panel of fellow academics, who then grade them, between zero (work that falls  that falls below the standard of nationally recognised work) and four (world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour).  Most people have to produce four such outputs, but people who work part-time or have only just joined the university (early career researchers) are allowed to submit fewer items, given that they are (quite reasonably) assumed to have had less time than their colleagues to research, write and curate exhibits.

So far so good (?) but HEFCE’s latest consultation document throws up some considerable challenges for academics who have the temerity to have children.  It appears to suggest that no allowance will be made for maternity leave in deciding how many items should be submitted by a researcher, unless the leave lasted over 14 months.  See paragraphs 49-56 in the consultation document – especially Para 59 and table 2.
Bearing in mind that very few people are allowed to, want to, or can afford to, take 14 months maternity leave,  women who have had babies in the past 5-6 year REF cycle will have to submit four items like everyone else. The implication here is that they have been able to achieve the same research output as colleagues – which seems pretty ambitious to anyone who has been, or knows someone who has been, pregnant or the parent of infants.

As it stands, the draft proposal would seem to present a seriously discouraging picture to academics, or those who may be thinking of becoming academics. The HEFCE proposal is far out of line with our friends at the ERC, who extend the window of eligibility for their Starter Grants by 18 months per child born; this is thought to reflect the level of disruption to research. It also contrasts dismally with recent efforts made elsewhere, for example to bring in more women onto UK corporate boards, see the 30% club for example. Indeed, the HEFCE proposal is difficult to reconcile with HEFCE’s own aims to “support equality and diversity in research careers” and “encourage institutions to submit all their eligible staff who have produced excellent research” with fewer than four outputs if circumstances “have significantly constrained [staff’s] ability to produce four outputs or to work productively throughout the assessment period” (paragraph 47).

The HEFCE document isn’t, however, entirely clear. It notes (paragraph 62) that an alternative approach could be adopted to take account of pregnancy and maternity: that staff who had periods of maternity leave during the REF assessment period may reduce the number of outputs by one for each discrete period of maternity leave, without penalty in the assessment. “This alternative approach is based on the view that each period of maternity leave, and any associated constraints on work, is generally sufficiently disruptive of an individual’s research work to merit the reduction of an output”. That sounds more like it.

My view is that the fairest way to take into account maternity leave would be to allow those who have taken it during the last REF cycle to submit a reduced number of inputs, in line with the reduction allowed to Early Career Researchers (reduction in inputs is in linear relation to  months away from work).

Let HEFCE know what you think of the proposal and its alternative. The consultation is open until 5 October 2011.

25
Jun
11

Global university rankings

Here are an interesting  set of thoughts, with thanks to Dr Margit T for mentioning this paper to me.

Don’t Look to the Ivy League – Howard Hotson. London Review of Books 33(10): 20-22

The paper begins with the statement that

“At the heart of the Browne Report and the government’s higher education policy is a simple notion allegedly grounded in economics: that the introduction of market forces into the higher education sector will simultaneously drive up standards and drive down prices.”

It then goes on to discuss the basis on which university standards are usually discussed: the world university rankings, in which the US typically dominates over half the top 20 positions. However, Hotson unpicks these data, calibrating for population, GDP and investment in tertiary education. He thus comes to the following proposition:

“The UK has somehow managed to maintain top-ranked universities for only about a fifth of the US price”

Thus, he concludes,- “The natural interpretation of the World University Rankings flies in the face of the key assumption underpinning current British government policy … In terms of value for money, the British system is far better, and probably the best in the world. Willetts should follow the example of the health secretary, take advantage of a ‘natural break in the legislative process’, and go back to the drawing board.”

23
Jun
11

PPE

The David Willetts mentioned in my previous post, the Minister for Universities and Science, holds a degree in PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) from Oxford (as do David Cameron, Aung San Suu Kyi, both Miliband brothers, Ann Widdecombe, Danny Alexander, Ed Balls, and Benazir Bhutto, I am informed by the dedicated wikipedia page).

The course “brings together some of the most important approaches to understanding the social and human world around us”, says the Oxford Admissions blurb. That seems pretty majorly important and worthwhile. And the course outline provided looks really interesting; optional subjects include Post-Kantian Philosophy, Later Wittgenstein, Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa, Political thought: Plato to Rousseau, International Economics and Economics of Developing Countries.

Isn’t PPE  generally considered an Arts subject? As such, how is it going to be affected by the phasing out of teaching grants for degree courses in arts, humanities and social sciences at English universities under government plans?




About this blog

This blog has been set up to chart the activities and research findings of two projects led by Anne Haour, an archaeologist from the Sainsbury Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom.

The first project, called Crossroads, brings together a team of archaeologists, historians and anthropologists studying the Niger Valley where it borders Niger and Bénin (West Africa). We are hoping to shed more light on the people that inhabited the area in the past 1500 years and to understand how population movements and craft techniques shaped the area's past.

The second project, called Cowries, examines the money cowrie, a shell which served as currency, ritual object and ornament across the world for millennia, and in medieval times most especially in the Maldive Islands of the Indian Ocean and the Sahelian regions of West Africa. We hope to understand how this shell was sourced and used in those two areas.

These investigations are funded by the European Research Council as part of the Starting Independent Researcher Programme (Seventh Framework Programme – FP7) and by the Leverhulme Trust as a Research Project Grant. The opinions posted here are however Anne Haour's own!

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