There are several contexts to which the whole strategy has been shaped. These are the current research situation at the University, our strategic plan: Challenging Horizons, our core values, our intention to gain Research Degree Awarding Powers (RDAP), our plan to submit to the REF 2020, our learning and teaching strategy and our research ethics, policies and procedures.
Our strategy hinges on a clear and embedded framework of governance, to make sure we stay firmly on track. The team comprises:
Our research is always developed with a focus on health, economic growth, and social and cultural capital. We take on sector-specific agendas in social science, education, health, physical activity, sport, tourism, communication, enterprise and the creative arts. Backed by our inherent spirit for innovation and exploration, our research brings together subject knowledge, specialist research and sector priorities. And the result? We always aim to create greater social and economic impact. But up until now, our research activity and outputs have yet to reach a sector norm, and that’s precisely why we’ve put together our new strategy, in a bid to make a strong submission to the 2020 REF. We’re also focused on gaining our RDAP, and will be developing a vibrant and productive postgraduate research student body (along with an RDAP partner) to complete the required number of PhDs over a five- to six-year period.
The research environment will include seminar series at faculty and institutional levels for both staff and students, international and national research collaborations and the development of a well-appointed ‘Graduate Hub’, which will act as a focal point for postgraduate taught and research degree students. We’ll be developing: a mentor network to supervise and support students; evidence research-informed teaching across all courses; a vibrant research community (including visiting academics); and a support infrastructure for all participating students. Finally, we’ll be focusing on how our research excellence is viewed externally, through funding opportunities and other forms of peer recognition.
We want to become the go-to university in the South West for translational research and business development in impactful niche subject areas. In order to do that, we know that we need to advance global knowledge, innovation and technology through high-quality, connected and relevant research that has a positive impact on society. So, we will be boosting our current research portfolio with a focus on specific areas (in line with our new course provision) such as social sciences, psychology, biotechnology, and technology in health. As a result, our portfolio will begin to grow in line with regional and national priorities. We’ll also be looking at enhancing cross-faculty research, to explore the possibilities of research-informed cross-institutional teaching. All this and more will be performed under the supportive eye of all staff, whether they’re currently active in research or not.
The Research Excellence Framework (REF) is the current system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The meaning of the assessment exercise to universities is great. It allows them to demonstrate the quality and impact of their research work. The Research Excellence Framework was the first exercise to assess the impact of research outside of academia ie in society in general. Impact was defined as ‘an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia’.
The value of great research, its training in original thinking and analysis and its ability to keep knowledge fresh and contemporary, to the nation and to the undergraduate and postgraduate student body is something that sets university degrees apart from those available outside of the university system. In 2014 the REF revealed the quality and impact of UK research in universities. It is likely, but not yet clear, that a similar assessment exercise will occur again in 2020. This university is committed to submitting its research to the next REF exercise and will post information regarding the method and criteria for assessment as they are confirmed.