It’s a tough time to be part of higher education in the UK at the moment, in particular if you are not a STEM subject. I’ve written quite a bit on this theme before1 but due to last week’s Research Excellence Framework announcement here in the UK, it seems worth linking to a couple of things.
For those of you outside of the UK, the REF is a (flawed) attempt to quantify the quality of research outputs by all Universities in the UK.
First there is this:
… in this current climate of burnout and uncertainty, are universities really creating the most fertile environment for the next generation of academics?
And more worryingly:
More than half of UK university staff questioned by the network said recent policy changes such as the introduction of the research excellence framework — a new process for measuring the quality of academic research — had fuelled campus bullying.
My sense is that the environments that academics are being required to work in are increasingly toxic. The structure and importance of REF (it determines how much money Universities get for research) is increasingly at odds with developing a research (and teaching) environment that is challenging, supportive, intellectually rich, and able to be clearly communicated with different types of audiences.
It so happens that Roehampton Dance (where I work) did very well in REF2014, and I celebrated our success with my colleagues. But, we were taxed as a group of people and it was in spite of these taxes that we were able to continue doing strong research. In many respects I sense that it is because we care for each other and the Department, and the entire group — administrative staff, students and academics — fought to maintain a research environment in which we continue to work to understand why and how dance matters to people.