What’s going on in Higher Education?

Do you know what the hot topics for discussion are in higher education?  I don’t mean the latest research news that you discuss with your group or colleagues over coffee, but more the issues that are shaping the future direction of higher education in the UK.  You may think why should I care, but some of these topics are likely to have an impact not only on the academic job market but also on what you encounter once you are employed in an academic or research role in higher education (if that’s what you want of course).

I try to keep up-to-date by reading Times Higher Education every week.  I like to flick through it (yes, I love the physical copy although I get it digitally too) over a pot of coffee on a Friday morning.  I like doing this for several reasons.

Firstly, flicking through the job vacancies can give a sense of what’s happening.  In the last year the number of universities offering substantial numbers of research fellowships to recruit ‘research stars’ to help with their research excellence framework (ref) score in 2014 has been very interesting to see.

Secondly, you do get to hear about real issues that have potential to change the nature of research in higher education. Things like:

  • debate about open-access publishing
  • recent report on increase in success rates for funding from the Research Councils, obviously brought about by their more stringent controls on number of applications
  • article on the size of research groups, its impact on productivity (relationship is not entirely clear but good to consider when you are thinking about your move beyond the PhD), and research funders imposing stricter controls on funding large groups
  • UCU (trade union of choice for university academics and researchers) reporting stress levels in academics are higher than for any other profession (indicating growing demands of the job)

Thirdly, I like the brief round-up of research that’s going on at universities around the country.  From reading about a European-wide project aimed at reducing suicide among young people to hearing that parents who shout at or smack their children could be increasing their risk of developing cancer, asthma and heart disease (and this usually just after I’ve shouted at the kids to get them to school on time!), it’s great to see the diversity of research.  But of course, you are left thinking yes, but what were the control experiments, and I don’t have time over my coffee to look up every original article!

And lastly, I always get a laugh!  The official newsletter of The University of Poppleton on the back always makes me smile with its irreverant take on what’s been happening.  And the latest round of entries in the “HE Jargon” competition were hilarious.  To quote the eventual winner from University of Leeds on organisational effectiveness:

We can reframe the way we define it, so that it’s not viewed as simply foregrounding cost-savings, but instead a much more complex interplay of influences and drivers that facilitate opportunities for enhancing the ways in which we enhance movement.

Campaign for plain English anyone?

This is not an advert for Times Higher Education.  There are lots of other ways you can keep up-to-date;  the Guardian Higher Education Network is good and Inside Higher Ed has a North American slant but as we are in a global business it covers much of relevance to the UK, but there will be other websites, publications, blogs, etc. which you may discover.

So if you want to know about things that are going on in the sector which could have an impact on the job you do in the future, then why not read something a bit different over coffee?

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